The Serum Institute of India (SII) which is a front-runner for providing coronavirus vaccine AZD1222 to India and other low and middle-income groups is because of a sub-licensing agreement with pharma major AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca along with the Oxford Vaccine group have developed AZD1222 one of the most promising coronavirus vaccine. In an email interview to Outlook’s Jyotika Sood, AstraZeneca’s vice president – medical affairs and regulatory Dr Anil Kukreja reveals the contours of the agreement. Excerpts:
Q) Could you please share broad contours for what exactly is the arrangement of AstraZeneca with Serum Institute India (SII) on Covid-19 vaccine AZD1222?
The agreement with Serum Institute of India (SII) is a key part of our efforts to bring AZD1222 to low-and-middle income countries and beyond. The licensing agreement with SII is to supply one billion doses for low-and-middle-income countries, with a commitment to provide 400 million doses before the end of 2020.
Q) In India, there are several price tags floating for the vaccine costs. Can you give an estimate on what kind of price range we should look at for AZD1222?
We have made a commitment to make the potential vaccine available to as many countries as possible at no profit during the period of the pandemic to support broad and equitable access around the world. This is part of our commitment to meet an urgent global public health need and support healthcare systems and economies to recover. It is too early to think about pricing post pandemic. At this stage all our energy is focused on determining if the vaccine is tolerated and effective, and on producing as many doses as required to control the pandemic.
Q) We understand that Serum Institute of India has a binding agreement with AstraZeneca to produce 300 million doses. Once SII gets approval for manufacturing in India, will it be mandatory for SII to first fulfil the dosage order of AstraZeneca?
Our partnership with SII constitutes a sub-licensing agreement. As such, it is not our role to determine whether SII vaccines will be distributed through other channels. It will be up to SII to determine how they will engage with partners and governments to distribute the vaccine should it prove effective and tolerated. SII has recently announced its collaboration with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate manufacturing and delivery of up to 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for low-and middle-income countries in 2021, which includes AZD1222should clinical trials prove to be successful. These 200 million doses would be supplied into the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator, ‘COVAX’.
Q) Do you think India’s ongoing disputes with China can hamper manufacturing of AZD1222 since India imports most of its raw material for the pharma sector from China?
AstraZeneca is building a number of parallel supply chains with partners around the world and is seeking to expand manufacturing capacity further in order to meet its commitment to support broad and equitable access to the potential vaccine at no profit during the period of the pandemic.
We are leveraging our own industrial capacity as well as working with a number of partners to establish parallel supply chains in record time to support global access. Agreements with our manufacturing partners are negotiated individually and are evolving at pace. We have therefore decided to not proactively share the names of our suppliers and partners.