Changing how India's vaccine numbers are represented in our data

Monday, January 11, 2021
Weekly COVID Vaccine Research Update

Vials of COVID-19 vaccine in a hand

Data Updates

High-income country confirmed dose total: 4.2 billion
Upper-middle-income country total: 1.24 billion
Lower-middle-income country total: 495 million
Low-income country total: 0
COVAX total: 1.07 billion
Total worldwide confirmed purchases of Covid-19 vaccines: 7 billion doses

Weekly Insights and Interesting Trends

Changing how India's vaccine numbers are represented in our data

We have changed this week the way that India’s reserved doses of vaccine are represented in our data, moving the majority of the doses out of “confirmed” to “potential” doses.

The way we have been counting India’s numbers in past weeks is a bit different than for other countries. Our numbers typically come from publicly reported purchases by governments (and occasionally private sector buyers). But because India is such a pivotal vaccine manufacturer, the story there is a bit more complex.

The Serum Institute of India (SII), one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, has publicly committed that half of the Covid-19 vaccines they produce will stay in India to serve the domestic market, while the remainder will be shipped out to other countries. SII currently has a contract with Novavax to produce 2 billion doses and with AstraZeneca to produce 1 billion doses, so we are assuming that there are 1 billion doses of Novavax and 500 million doses of Oxford-AZ vaccine being produced by SII exclusively for India. 

We do not know what proportion of these doses will be purchased by the government of India versus sold through the private sector, but we do expect this amount to remain in India. Though we have not yet seen these come through as announced purchases, we decided two months ago that including these doses provided the most accurate picture of India’s relatively strong position amongst lower-middle income countries (due to their robust manufacturing industry). This is a bit different than the other data points in our spreadsheet, as most represent clear purchase deals. In the case of SII, manufacturing deals implicitly include supply deals for India.

We have been representing these doses as “confirmed” for India in our data but this week have decided to move SII’s doses to “potential.” We still assume that the doses are reserved for India and, indeed, the Indian government appears to be counting on them. However, India has now issued emergency authorization to two vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured by SII and Bharat Biotech’s India-based vaccine, and is launching a mass immunization campaign this week. But we have not yet seen any public announcement of a formal vaccine purchase by the government.

Last week brought an uproar over rumors that the government of India was blocking the shipment of Covid-19 vaccines out of India through export restrictions, which would have dire consequences for the many low- and middle-income countries counting on SII for vaccine supply. The government denies blocking (or having any plans to block) export of vaccines.

This does beg the question of where the government of India plans to procure the doses needed for its mass immunization campaign. If there is a formal purchase agreement in place with SII or Bharat Biotech, we have not uncovered it. We have decided that including the doses reserved for India under SII’s manufacturing deals as potential (rather than confirmed) will increase clarity about India’s current position and will allow us to mark specific purchases as they occur.

We will continue to keep a close watch on the situation, updating as possible. If you have (verifiable) information about purchases from India, we would be grateful if you could share this with us.

Interesting Trends

Significant updates, changes, and trends we are seeing this week:

  • We have changed the way that we report India’s reserved vaccine in our data, moving the doses produced by the Serum Institute to potential rather than confirmed. See the Insights section below for further detail.
  • Results from a small-scale study indicate that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is likely effective against the new strains of Covid-19 that have developed in the UK and South Africa.
  • The UK approved the Moderna vaccine for emergency use this week but will likely be waiting until April for the first shipment.
  • China approved its Sinopharm-Beijing vaccine for general use, reporting that it is 79.3% effective.
  • Janssen (J&J) expects to release data from its Phase III trial by the end of January. The singledose Janssen vaccine candidate is under rolling review in more than 20 countries and could potentially receive emergency use authorization by next month.
  • The WHO approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for Emergency Use Listing (EUL), allowing UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to procure and distribute the vaccine. The EUL status also means that countries can expedite their own review and approval process for the vaccine.
  • The WHO also indicated that it has received 13 applications of Covid-19 vaccines seeking Emergency Use Listing, including the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Sinopharm.
  • Several countries announced their first vaccine purchases this week, including South Africa, Bolivia, Serbia, Ukraine, Algeria, and Pakistan.
  • The US contributed $4 billion to GAVI to support global Covid-19 vaccine procurement and distribution.

For more information on this research and our findings, please go to
https://launchandscalefaster.org/COVID-19.