The Serum Institute of India (SII) will supply Saudi Arabia with 3 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses priced at $5.25 each in about a week on behalf of the British drugmaker, its chief executive told Reuters on Monday.
SII has no immediate plans, however, to divert supplies to Europe, even though AstraZeneca has come under pressure from the EU to deliver more shots after announcing a big cut in shipments due to production problems at a Belgian factory.
SII, the world's biggest vaccine manufacturer, has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to make up to a billion doses for poorer countries.
The Indian company supplies doses on behalf of AstraZeneca but is also free to strike its own supply deals.
“We continue to support AstraZeneca wherever they need the support. We are happy to do so,” Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla told Reuters in an interview.
“But we have not been asked to supply any more products for Europe because then that would mean supplies to Africa and India would suffer, and we certainly don’t want that,” he said. “Once I satisfy that I can look at other, richer nations. Six months to a year, that could change.”
He said the doses destined for Saudi Arabia would be shipped in a week or 10 days. SII is also supplying South Africa with 1.5 million doses at the same price of $5.25 each on behalf of AstraZeneca.
“We have our hands full, in fact, with the volumes even we need to supply,” Poonawalla said. “We have been on time and we are able to supply to all these nations.”
The pricing of the deal between South Africa and AstraZeneca has sparked some controversy as it is higher than the $3 a dose that South Africa and other countries on the continent are due to pay for the vaccine under an African Union arrangement.
AstraZeneca has said it will not profit from the vaccine during the pandemic.