WHO-led COVAX vaccine scheme agrees new supply deal with India's Serum

FILE PHOTO: An employee in personal protective equipment (PPE) removes vials of AstraZeneca's COVISHIELD, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine from a visual inspection machine inside a lab at Serum Institute of India, Pune, India, November 30, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) - India’s Serum Institute will supply 1.1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Novavax to the COVAX vaccine scheme as part of a new long-term deal, the head of the U.N. Children’s Fund said on Wednesday.

UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore said the shots would be delivered over a number of years at the cost of about $3 per dose for low- and middle-income countries.

They would be produced by Serum under a technology transfer agreement, she said in a briefing.

The deal is on top of the goal of distributing 2 billion doses of vaccines to poor countries this year under the COVAX facility, which is co-led by GAVI, the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and UNICEF.

UNICEF has also stockpiled 500 million syringes among other equipment in preparation for the roll-out of shots starting in the next few weeks, Fore said.

CEPI is working with vaccine developers to be as ready as possible to deal with changes needed to vaccines to ensure they work against more infectious COVID-19 variants that have emerged in the past few months, deputy CEO of CEPI Frederik Kristensen told the briefing.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London; Writing by Josephine Mason; Editing by Toby Chopra and Catherine Evans