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COVAX in talks for other COVID-19 shots amid AstraZeneca supply problems

Kate Kelland
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Nurse prepares to administer the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine against the COVID-19 at the Eka Kotebe General Hospital in Addis Ababa

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - The COVAX vaccine-sharing plan said on Thursday it is seeking to bolster its supplies of COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries from new manufacturers as it aims to mitigate supply problems of the AstraZeneca shot from India.

The global programme - co-led by the GAVI vaccine alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) - said that while it was hoping to restart deliveries of doses from India's Serum Institute to COVAX participating countries "as soon as possible", it was also looking for additional potential supplies.

COVAX's rollout of vaccines has been disrupted by supply and production hold-ups of the AstraZeneca shot, and aggravated by a temporary hold on exports of the Serum Institute-made version of the vaccine as India battles to contain surging infections.

Serum said on Wednesday it hoped to raise its monthly output of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot to 100 million doses by July from 60-70 million now, later than a previous timeline of end-May.

"Anticipating these types of barriers is one of the reasons COVAX has sought to diversify its portfolio from the beginning," a GAVI spokesperson told Reuters. "We are in conversations with other manufacturers of other candidates on supply schedules.

"We also anticipate announcing new deals for vaccines and vaccine candidates," the spokesperson added, but gave no further details of when and with which manufacturers such deals would be agreed.

The COVAX facility is aiming to secure 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for lower-income countries by the end of 2021.

The WHO has urged wealthy countries to make good on rhetoric about ensuring equitable access to vaccines by backing COVAX and by sharing doses via donations to the programme.

France said on Wednesday it would shortly become the first European Union member to share vaccines with developing countries via COVAX, with a planned initial donation this month of 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca's shot.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Alex Richardson)