Amid the decline in global demand, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India, will stop manufacturing its Covid-19 vaccines under the AstraZeneca licence.
The institute manufactured more than a billion doses of Covishield: AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured under a different name in India. It also was one of the largest contributors to Covax, the campaign providing the poorest countries with Covid-19
As per Serum chief Adar Poonawalla, “Since last summer, however, production exceeded demand, and the company’s stockpile grew to 200 million unused doses.”
“We shut down production in December. I have even made an offer to give free donations to whoever wants to take it,” he said, expressing concern over potential waste. According to India’s drug regulator, the Covishield vaccine can be used for up to nine months after its manufacture date.
The production halt applies only to Covishield; the company will continue to manufacture Covovax under licence from the US pharma giant Novavax, a Serum spokesperson said.
Still, while the world is seemingly moving from a shortage to a “glut” of Covid vaccines, billions of people remain unvaccinated, most in developing nations.
While around two-thirds of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and many European countries – including Belgium – are even considering a fourth dose for certain population groups, only 12.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. In practice, this means that one-third of the world (including 83% of all Africans) remains totally unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, large pharmaceutical companies (backed by the EU, the UK, Germany and Switzerland) have refused to waive their patents and share the vaccine recipe and know-how that would allow other manufacturers to start producing them.