COVAX has notified participating economies that deliveries of doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII) will face delays in March and April, GAVI, the vaccine alliance, said on Thursday.
“Delays in securing supplies of SII-produced COVID-19 vaccine doses are due to the increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India,” it said in a statement attributing the delay partially to soaring virus cases in India.
India has so far recorded 11.8 million COVID-19 cases, and 160,692 related deaths.
COVAX is led by the WHO, GAVI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and other partners to work with drug makers to equitably provide vaccines to developing nations.
“COVAX and the Government of India remain in discussions to ensure some supplies are completed during March and April,” said GAVI.
The agreement between GAVI and the SII includes funding to support an increase in the latter’s manufacturing capacity.
The Indian institute is contracted to provide COVAX with the SII-licensed and manufactured Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine (locally known as Covishield) to more than 60 lower-income economies participating in the initiative, along with its commitments to New Delhi.
COVAX has received 28 million Covishield doses, was expecting an additional 40 million jabs in March, and up to 50 million in April.
“SII has pledged that, alongside supplying India, it will prioritize the COVAX multilateral solution for equitable distribution,” the statement said. “In this early phase of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, vaccine manufacturers require time to scale and optimize their production processes.”
AstraZeneca, which uses a novel supply chain network with sites across multiple continents, is working to enable initial supply to 82 countries through COVAX in the coming weeks.
COVAX is sticking to its goal of supplying initial doses of vaccines to all participating economies in the first half of 2021 before ramping up significantly in the second half of the year. To date, it has shipped vaccines to over 50 countries.