GENEVA – The U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide has announced supply delays involving a key Indian manufacturer, a major setback for the ambitious rollout aimed at helping low- and middle-income countries vaccinate their populations and fight the pandemic.
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and its partners said Thursday that the Serum Institute of India, a pivotal vaccine maker behind the COVAX program, will face increasing domestic demands as coronavirus infections surge.
“Delays in securing supplies of SII-produced COVID-19 vaccine doses are due to the increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India,” Gavi said.
The move will affect up to 40 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccines being manufactured by the Serum Institute that were to be delivered for COVAX this month, as well as 50 million expected next month.
COVAX, an initiative devised to give countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth, has so far shipped vaccines to some 50 countries and territories.
The Serum Institute of Indian has been contracted to supply vaccines to 64 countries, and Gavi said the U.N.-backed program has “notified all affected economies of potential delays.”
Gavi said the Serum Institute has pledged that “alongside supplying India, it will prioritize the COVAX multilateral solution for equitable distribution.”
Gavi, which runs COVAX jointly with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, has distributed 31 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine -- 28 million from the Serum Institute and another 3 million from a South Korean contractor also producing it.