Gates Foundation invests in $3 COVID-19 vaccine for poorer countries

Gates Foundation invests in $3 COVID-19 vaccine for poorer countries
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A coronavirus vaccine will be available to poorer countries for less than $3 a dose under a new partnership between the Gates Foundation and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker.

The collaboration is meant to ensure up to 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for distribution quickly to low- and middle-income countries. The arrangement also provides an option to secure additional doses if needed.

The move comes as other governments around the world, especially in the U.S., are moving to quickly secure vaccine production and distribution rights with pharmaceutical companies.

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The Gates Foundation partnership, which also includes Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — an organization that helps negotiate and finance vaccines for poor countries — will provide upfront capital to the Serum Institute to help them increase manufacturing capacity now.

The goal is that, once a vaccine, or vaccines, gains regulatory approval, doses can be produced at scale for distribution for low-income countries as early as the first half of 2021. They will be priced at no more than $3 a dose.

Serum Institute of India is the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world by volume. It already has contracts with vaccine candidates developed by Novavax and Oxford University, in partnership with AstraZeneca. 

The groups said the collaboration is meant to ensure that developing countries have access to a coronavirus vaccine and aren't left behind.

“Researchers are making good progress on developing safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19,” Bill Gates said in a statement. “But making sure everyone has access to them, as soon as possible, will require tremendous manufacturing capacity and a global distribution network. This collaboration gives the world some of both: the power of India’s manufacturing sector and Gavi’s supply chain."

Both products from Novavax and Oxford-AstraZeneca have shown promise in initial trials. Novavax is set to begin phase three testing in the fall, while the late-stage Oxford trial has already begun.

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Both companies have received more than $1 billion each from the Trump administration as part of its effort to secure a vaccine for the U.S. 

Drugmakers have already begun signaling how much they will charge for a potential vaccine, and the prices vary considerably. 

Oxford has pledged its vaccine will be available globally "at cost" for about $3 a dose, while Johnson & Johnson predicted its vaccine will cost about $10 a dose for 100 million doses. Moderna this week said it will price a two-dose regimen at as much as $74 for small-batch customers. 

Last month, the U.S. agreed to pay Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech $1.95 billion for 100 million doses, which is about $19.50 a dose, and $39 for a two-dose regimen.