With Western governments striking deals to secure early access to COVID-19 vaccines, there have been concerns about whether low and middle-income countries will be able to source products to protect their populations. AstraZeneca went some way to mitigating those concerns by agreeing to provide Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance with 300 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Now, the Gates Foundation has taken another step toward ensuring timely access to vaccines in low and middle-income countries by entering into an agreement with Gavi and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
The agreement will see the Gates Foundation provide Gavi with $150 million of at-risk funding to support the production and procurement of vaccines. Some of the money will go toward the scaling up of capacity at SII in anticipation of the availability of an effective vaccine from AstraZeneca or Novavax.
By providing the money now, well before any company has shown a vaccine to be safe and effective, the Gates Foundation hopes to prevent a delay in getting prophylactics to low and middle-income countries.
“Too many times we’ve seen the most vulnerable countries left at the back of the queue when it comes to new treatments, new diagnostics and new vaccines,” said Gavi CEO Seth Berkley. “With COVID-19 vaccines we want things to be different.”
SII has set a maximum price for the vaccines of $3 a dose. The price, which is well below the figures quoted in deals involving Western governments, was facilitated by investments from partners such as CEPI and the Gates Foundation.
Starting in the first half of next year, GAVI plans to source up to 100 million doses through the collaboration. The arrangement provides scope to source additional vaccines. There is also potential for additional arrangements of a similar nature.
“We now need other vaccine manufacturers to step up and follow SII’s lead,” said Berkley.
Exactly when Gavi ships vaccines will depend on the progress of candidates in clinical development at AstraZeneca and Novavax. AstraZeneca’s chimpanzee adenovirus-vectored vaccine entered a phase 2/3 trial in May and, through a series of agreements including recent deals in China and Japan, is set to be used around the world if shown to be effective.
Novavax is developing an adjuvanted prefusion protein vaccine that recently delivered a positive, albeit early, set of clinical data. In the wake of the data drop, Takeda licensed the vaccine for use in Japan.