In a big development, World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday approved emergency use listing (EUL) of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine- Covishield. This will enable distribution of Covid-19 vaccine to low-income countries. World’s largest vaccine maker Serum Institute of India can now begin supply of Covishield to COVAX initiative backed by World Health Organisation. The programme was initiated to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines and has been joined 190 countries.
The decision to grant EUL to Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was taken after WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) reviewed it on February 8. The expert committee has recommended the vaccine for all age groups above 18. Earlier, the SAGE had granted EUL to Pfizer vaccine. In a statement, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, Dr Mariângela Simão said countries with no access to vaccines to date will finally be able to start vaccinating their health workers and populations at risk, contributing to the COVAX Facility’s goal of equitable vaccine distribution.
SII CEO Adar Poonawalla had earlier said it would sell each dose at $3 for low-income countries. The institute plans to supply 240 million doses for Covax, out of which 97.16 million is expected to be given to India. according to the interim distribution forecast of the Covax facility, 13 million of these doses will go to Bangladesh. The institute is likely to begin the supply by the end of this month. 35-40% of these doses to scheduled to be delivered by March-end and the rest by June.
In other news, South Africa has asked SII to take back one million doses of the vaccine it had received earlier. The country has paused the vaccine-roll out after a clinical trial showed it did not offer much protection against the coronavirus variant dominant in the country.