As a range of drugmakers rush to approvals for their COVID-19 vaccine, big-money supply deals and logistical hurdles have left developing nations concerned about access to potential winners. In few places is that concern larger than in India, the second most populous nation on Earth, and a vaccines giant has stepped into ensure its home country will get those shots. 

As part of massive pacts with British drugmaker AstraZeneca and a coalition of global nonprofits, the Serum Institute of India (SII) will create access to more than 1 billion doses of licensed COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries, including in India itself. 

In late September, SII pledged to make an additional 100 million COVID shot doses available in 2021 as part of an expanded distribution effort with Gavi, the Vaccines Alliance, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  As part of their ramped-up manufacturing pact, the Gates Foundation will plug an additional $150 million into boosting SII and Gavi’s production capacity to provide shots at a maximum of $3 per dose, bringing its total commitment to $300 million. 

SII’s expanded pledge will bring the partnership’s total commitment to 200 million doses in 2021. Distribution would begin in the first half of the year, provided at least one of its licensed shots—from AstraZeneca and Novavax—passes muster with regulators.

The institute has previously stated its goal to produce up to 1 billion doses per year to low- and middle-income countries. In order to hit that stout pledge—one of the largest commitments of any vaccine maker in the race—SII reportedly pursued a $1 billion cash raise back in August to help boost manufacturing. 

Back in June, AstraZeneca tapped SII in a licensing deal to provide 1 billion doses of its adenovirus-based COVID-19 shot to low- and middle-income countries, with the goal of 400 million produced by year’s end. That licensing pact came at the same time AstraZeneca signed a $750 million supply deal with CEPI and Gavi for its shot, dubbed AZD1222. 


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