Saudi Arabia to receive three million Covid-19 vaccines from India

The doses from Serum Institute of India should be in the kingdom within a week

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 17, 2020 An illustration picture shows vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on November 17, 2020. The boss of British drugs giant AstraZeneca, which with Oxford University has produced a Covid vaccine, denounced  a "me first" approach by some countries to obtaining doses on January 25, 2021. / AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS
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Saudi Arabia will receive three million AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine shots from the Serum Institute of India (SII). The doses are expected to arrive within a week.

SII recently partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to cater to needs of poor countries with up to a billion doses in supply.

SII supplies doses on behalf of AstraZeneca but is also free to negotiate 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.

"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."

SII will not partner with Pfizer whose Covid-19 vaccine needs to be stored at about minus 70°C because India currently lacks such facilities, according to Mr Poonawalla.

SII produces a daily output of 2.4 million doses. Mr Poonawalla said it will raise production of the AstraZeneca vaccine by 30 per cent by the end of March.

Priced at $5.25 a dose, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer will also supply South Africa with 1.5 million doses at the same price on behalf of AstraZeneca.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health confirmed 223 new Covid-19 cases in the kingdom on Monday.

"There are 333 critical cases, while the health condition of the rest is stable," the ministry said. It also reported three new deaths and that 198 patients had recovered, raising the number of recoveries to 358,137.

There were 43,695 laboratory tests conducted across the kingdom in the previous 24 hours.