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Bharat Biotech’s Ankleshwar plant, manufacturer of rabies vaccine, rolls out 1st batch of Covaxin

Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya released the first commercial batch of Covaxin from the Gujarat plant Sunday, said it had the capacity to produce more than 1 crore doses per month.

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New Delhi: The Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mansukh Mandaviya, released the first commercial batch of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin from its new facility in Gujarat’s Ankleshwar, Sunday, adding that it had the capacity to produce more than 1 crore doses per month.

Mandaviya shared the news from his personal Twitter account Sunday.

The manufacturing of Covaxin will take place in the Chiron Behring facility in Ankleshwar, which is already one of the biggest producers of the rabies vaccine. Bharat Biotech acquired the Chiron Behring private limited in 2019, which is now its 100 per cent subsidiary.

According to the company press release, “Chiron Behring Vaccines is a WHO pre-qualified manufacturer of rabies vaccines, eligible for supplies to UN agencies and has product registrations in more than 20 countries”.

Covaxin is based on a ‘Whole-Virion Inactivated Vero Cell-derived platform technology’ (or inactivated virus technology) and the additional plants that it has repurposed, including the one in Ankleshwar, were already producing vaccines with this technology and had the stringent biosafety measures, the company said in its release.

Also read: Covid vaccines for children could be available by September, Bharat Biotech & NIV say

How the work began

In May, the company had announced that it would augment its supply of Covaxin by repurposing its Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) facilities that were already creating ‘Inactivated Vero Cell Platform’-based technology, and they were supposed to increase the supply by 200 million doses.

The company has added additional lines to these plants so that the manufacturing of the other vaccines doesn’t face any cuts, ThePrint has learnt. It took about three months to repurpose these plants to finally making the output.

In May, the Bombay High Court allowed the company to use a plant owned by Intervet India Pvt Limited in Pune to scale up Covaxin’s supply. Intervet India was already producing veterinary vaccines and was about to shut down due to commercial reasons — when Bharat Biotech was given permission to use the ready-to-use facility.

The same month, the company had also repurposed its Malur plant in Kolar district of Karnataka which, according to the Health Minister, could produce 4-5 crore doses a month by August 2021.

At present, the company has provided India with about 2.5 crore doses a month which, according to the government, is likely to increase to 6-7 crore monthly doses by September.

“The company has already deployed multiple production lines at its Hyderabad, Malur, Bengaluru, and Pune campuses, and the addition of Chiron Behring, Ankleshwar will further augment its Covaxin production capacity. A new filing facility constructed during 2020 is now being utilized for the production of Covaxin”, read its press release.

The Bharat Biotech vaccine requires two doses delivered in an interval of 4-6 weeks and has an efficacy of 77.8 per cent against the coronavirus. The shorter duration of full vaccination makes Bharat Biotech’s vaccine contribution crucial in India’s race against coronavirus.

(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)

Also read: India to have 18-22 crore vaccine doses by September, ZyCoV D could take longer to hit market


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