COVAX updates participants on delivery delays for vaccines from Serum Institute of India (SII) and AstraZeneca

25 March 2021
On 24 February 2021, UNICEF Representative in Ghana Anne-Claire Dufay is photographed at the arrival of the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana's capital.
UNICEF/UN0421458/Kokoroko/COVAX
On 24 February 2021, UNICEF Representative in Ghana Anne-Claire Dufay is photographed at the arrival of the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the COVAX Facility at Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana's capital.
  • The COVAX Facility has notified participating economies that deliveries of doses from the Serum Institute of India (SII) will be delayed in March and April
  • Delays in securing supplies of SII-produced COVID-19 vaccine doses are due to the increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India
  • Separately, participating economies in the COVAX Facility that have been allocated doses from the AstraZeneca manufacturing network have been notified that some first deliveries anticipated in March will now take place in April

GENEVA/NEW YORK/OSLO, 25 March 2021 – Deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to lower-income economies participating in the COVAX Facility will face delays during March and April as the Government of India battles a new wave of COVID-19 infections. COVAX and the Government of India remain in discussions to ensure some supplies are completed during March and April.

According to the agreement between Gavi and the Serum Institute of India (SII), which included funding to support an increase in manufacturing capacity, SII is contracted to provide COVAX with the SII-licensed and manufactured AstraZeneca (AZ)-Oxford vaccine (known as COVISHIELD) to 64 lower-income economies participating in the Gavi COVAX AMC (including India), alongside its commitments to the Government of India.

To date, COVAX has been supplied with 28 million COVISHIELD doses and was expecting an additional 40 million doses to be available in March, and up to 50 million doses in April.

COVAX has notified all affected economies of potential delays. SII has pledged that, alongside supplying India, it will prioritize the COVAX multilateral solution for equitable distribution.

Participating economies have also received WHO guidance on optimizing the national deployment doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in a constrained supply environment.

Separately, the COVAX Facility has informed participants allocated AstraZeneca-manufactured doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine that some of the first deliveries due in March are now set to take place in April.

In this early phase of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, vaccine manufacturers require time to scale and optimize their production processes. AstraZeneca, which uses a novel supply chain network with sites across multiple continents, is working to enable initial supply to 82 countries through COVAX in the coming weeks.

COVAX retains its objective of supplying initial doses of vaccines to all participating economies in the first half of the year before ramping up significantly in the second half of 2021. To date, COVAX has shipped vaccines to over 50 countries and economies.

Notes to editors

About COVAX

COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-convened by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with UNICEF as key implementing partner, developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

CEPI’s role in COVAX

CEPI is leading on the COVAX vaccine research and development portfolio, investing in R&D across a variety of promising candidates, with the goal to support development of three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to countries participating in the COVAX Facility. As part of this work, CEPI has secured first right of refusal to potentially over one billion doses for the COVAX Facility to a number of candidates, and made strategic investments in vaccine manufacturing, which includes reserving capacity to manufacture doses of COVAX vaccines at a network of facilities, and securing glass vials to hold 2 billion doses of vaccine. CEPI is also investing in the ‘next generation’ of vaccine candidates, which will give the world additional options to control COVID-19 in the future.  

Gavi’s role in COVAX

Gavi is leading on procurement and delivery at scale for COVAX: coordinating the design, implementation and administration of the COVAX Facility and the COVAX AMC and working with its Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery. As part of this role, Gavi hosts the Office of the COVAX Facility to coordinate the operation and governance of the mechanism as a whole, manages relationships with Facility participants, and negotiates advance purchase agreements with manufacturers of promising vaccine candidates on behalf of the 190 economies participating in the COVAX Facility. It also coordinates design, operation and fundraising for the COVAX AMC that supports 92 lower-income economies, including a no-fault compensation mechanism that will be administered by WHO. As part of this work, Gavi supports governments and partners on ensuring country readiness, providing funding and oversight of UNICEF procurement of vaccines as well as partners’ and governments work on readiness and delivery. This includes support for cold chain equipment, technical assistance, syringes, vehicles, and other aspects of the vastly complex logistical operation for delivery.

WHO’s role in COVAX

WHO has multiple roles within COVAX: It provides normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, R&D, allocation, and country readiness and delivery. Its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization develops evidence-based immunization policy recommendations. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL) / prequalification programmes ensure harmonized review and authorization across member states. It provides global coordination and member state support on vaccine safety monitoring. It developed the target product profiles for COVID-19 vaccines and provides R&D technical coordination. WHO leads, together with UNICEF, the Country Readiness and Delivery workstream, which provides support to countries as they prepare to receive and administer vaccines. Along with Gavi and numerous other partners working at the global, regional, and country-level, the CRD workstream provides tools, guidance, monitoring, and on the ground technical assistance for the planning and roll-out of the vaccines. Along with COVAX partners, WHO has developed a no-fault compensation scheme as part of the time-limited indemnification and liability commitments.

UNICEF’s role in COVAX

UNICEF is leveraging its experience as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world and working with manufacturers and partners on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as freight, logistics and storage. UNICEF already procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunisation and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. In collaboration with the PAHO Revolving Fund, UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines for COVAX. In addition, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are working with governments around the clock to ensure that countries are ready to receive the vaccines, with appropriate cold chain equipment in place and health workers trained to dispense them. UNICEF is also playing a lead role in efforts to foster trust in vaccines, delivering vaccine confidence communications and tracking and addressing misinformation around the world.

About ACT-Accelerator

The Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March 2020 and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.

The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organisation, but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organisations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organisations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.

The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation.

Media contacts

Sabrina Sidhu
UNICEF New York
Tel: +1 917 476 1537
Anne Sophie Bonefeld
UNICEF Copenhagen
Tel: +45 24 69 46 76

Multimedia content

On 25 March 2021, 132,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Juba International Airport, the first of several vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive over the coming months to South Sudan through the support of the COVAX Facility.
On 25 March 2021, 132,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca COVID-19 vaccine arrived at the Juba International Airport, the first of several vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive over the coming months to South Sudan through the support of the COVAX Facility.

About UNICEF

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