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'Serum won't have to take full loss' if Covid vaccine not approved: Bill Gates on sharing risk

'Serum won't have to take full loss' if Covid vaccine not approved: Bill Gates on sharing risk

In his latest blog post, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chairman said his foundation has also taken some of the financial risks on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and that Serum won't have to take a full loss

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and SII CEO Adar Poonawalla Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and SII CEO Adar Poonawalla

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said if Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine fails to get the necessary approval, it'll not be alone to take a financial hit. In his latest blog post, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation co-chairman said his foundation has also taken some of the financial risks on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and that Serum won't have to take a full loss.

He raised a larger point in the blog on how the world reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic that took away so many lives and ravaged many world's economies in one year. "A company that excels at production agrees to manufacture products designed by another company with a viable vaccine candidate," wrote Gates.

He added: "The biggest vaccine manufacturer in the world, Serum Institute of India, is producing doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine. They've already begun production, so there will be doses available for low- and middle-income countries if AZ's vaccine is approved for use. And our foundation took on some of the financial risk, so if it doesn't get approved, Serum won't have to take a full loss."

Notably, SII has already manufactured more than 50 million of the AstraZeneca vaccines, and further production will start as soon as it gets necessary approvals from drug authorities in India and the UK.

Serum has received US$ 300 million at-risk funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance to develop and make two promising vaccines, Covishield and US biotech Novavax's Covovax. If the vaccine fails, Serum need not have to return the money. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, under the Covax alliance initiated by WHO and other healthcare donor organisations, are going to give the vaccine at low cost to nearly 192 countries. "Half of our initial production will be reserved for India" Adar Poonawala, CEO of SII had told Business Today earlier.

Adar Poonawalla-led SII has partnered with Swedish pharma major AstraZeneca to produce their Covid-19 vaccine for low and middle-income countries, including India. The vaccine maker's vaccine candidate, named Covishield, has shown efficacy level of 70.4 per cent, and up to 90 per cent at two-dose regimens.

In partnership with Serum, AstraZeneca and Oxford are hoping to supply 3 billion doses of the vaccine in 2021. Covishield can be stored at fridge temp and deployed quickly using existing infrastructure.

SII recently submitted additional data sought by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) on its application for emergency approval of its vaccine in India. Besides Serum, Pfizer India and Bharat Biotech have also applied for emergency clearance.

India plans to start the world's biggest mass inoculation drive in January. The country has plans to vaccinate 30 crore people by July in the first phase, say industry observers. The government claims it has assessed the present requirement of vaccines and is working towards augmenting capacities.

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