Covaxin is manufactured by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech | ANI Photo
Covaxin is manufactured by the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech | ANI Photo
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New Delhi: Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech is set to expand its manufacturing capacity to meet the growing need of vaccine supplies in the country, ThePrint has learnt.

India’s ‘first’ indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, is co-developed by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) along with Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Ltd.

The company is now set to double the production at its existing plant in Hyderabad. It will also raise the vaccine production by five times at its facility at Malur Kolar in Bengaluru. It also has the option to use its Ankleshwar facility in Gujarat.

The plan is being overseen by a six-member inter-ministerial panel appointed by the Narendra Modi government to augment vaccine manufacturing in India as Covid cases see a second wave in the country.

“Our officials are visiting these sites and it is being estimated that the overall capacity will go up seven times,” a senior official, who is part of the government panel, told ThePrint.

The official said that initial estimates suggest the production of the vaccine would double via the Hyderabad plant by May. It would further grow by five times once the Bengaluru plant starts manufacturing the vaccine by July.

The manufacturing of Covaxin — an inactivated vaccine platform — needs a biosafety level-3 (BSL-3) facility, which is required for work that involves microbes and can cause serious and deadly diseases.

“While the Hyderabad-based facility is already BSL-3, the one in Malur is a BSL-4 facility, which is even a notch higher than BSL-3. These both can be used for accelerating the production of Covaxin in the country,” said the official.

“This vaccine has been found effective against mutants and India needs to be ready with a good stock in hand,” he said.

The panel has asked both Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India, the maker of the second approved vaccine, Covishield, to come up with innovative ways to raise vaccine production. These firms can also re-purpose some of the available facilities or production lines.

The panel was formed on 17 March to boost vaccine production in order to inoculate an estimated 70 per cent of the population in the defined beneficiary groups to achieve herd immunity.


Also read: Prioritise Covid vaccine supplies within India over exports, govt tells Serum & Bharat Biotech


Bharat Biotech targets 70 crore Covaxin doses

Currently, Bharat Biotech is manufacturing 40 lakh doses through its manufacturing plant at Hyderabad. However, the company’s chairman and managing director, Krishna Ella had indicated that the firm planned to make 70 crore doses of Covaxin in 2021.

The company, this month, had bagged orders of 2 crore doses of Covaxin from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Apart from using company-owned sites, the government is considering other proposals. For instance, the Maharashtra government wrote to the central government proposing the use of Mumbai-based Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation for manufacturing Covaxin.

“These proposals are also under consideration as we need to understand the quality control at other labs apart from Bharat Biotech’s own facilities. We have to be very careful as it’s an attenuated platform and carries a certain level of risks,” said the official quoted above.


Also read: Covid antibodies may last from days to years, depending on infection severity, says study


 

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