COVAX vaccine begins shipping from India facility

Vaccine syringe India map
Vaccine syringe India map

ishant kumar / iStock

In the push for a broad global rollout of COVID-19 vaccine, the first batches of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine made in India today began shipping to countries that are part of COVAX, a program to support the development of vaccines and ensure their equitable distribution.

Vaccine batches bound for Africa

The World Health Organization's (WHO's) South East Asia office said on Twitter today that the first batches rolled out from India's Serum Institute in Pune.

The move comes a week after the WHO listed versions of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine made in India and South Korea for emergency use, which paves the way for the vaccine to be distributed by the COVAX program. The vaccines required two separate reviews and approvals, because they are made in two different facilities.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is a viral vector product that is well-suited to distribution to developing countries, because it is inexpensive and can be kept at normal refrigeration temperatures.

India's external affairs ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the first shipments are bound for countries in Africa, according to CNN. COVAX is led by the WHO, along Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

In a related development, the WHO yesterday announced that it and Swiss insurance company Chubb Limited, have signed an agreement on behalf of COVAX to administer a no-fault compensation program for 92 low- and middle-income countries and economies that are eligible for support from COVAX.

In a statement, the WHO said the agreement marks the first and only vaccine injury compensation mechanism to operate on a global scale. It added that the program will give people in the participating countries a fast, fair, robust, and transparent process to be compensated for rare but serious adverse events related to vaccines distributed through COVAX through Jun 30, 2022.

Other global headlines

  • In variant virus developments, the United Kingdom said new cases involving SARS-CoV-2 variants are dropping sharply, according to the country's health secretary Matt Hancock, who credited border quarantine measures for the decline. Elsewhere, India said variant activity isn't driving new increases in two states, according to Reuters. The country has tightened its measures in areas where cases are rising, and the government has asked five states to speed up the vaccination of healthcare workers.

  • New Zealand reported another cluster of local cases in Auckland, which comes just days after the country lifted a brief lockdown due to an earlier similar detection. The new cluster involves a high school student and two siblings, according the country's health ministry.

  • The World Bank today threatened to withhold vaccine funding for Lebanon while the organization investigates reports of people being vaccinated who weren't included in the first immunization phase, the Associated Press reports. The World Bank has approved $34 million to finance vaccine for 2 million people, and the country began vaccination on Feb 14 with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

  • Japan has recorded a rise in suicides, especially in women, during the pandemic months and has appointed the country's first Minister of Loneliness, according to CNN. The goal is to prevent social isolation and strengthen ties between people.

  • The global total today approached 112 million cases and is at 111,951,961, with 2,480,465 deaths, according to the John Hopkins online dashboard.

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