Govt moves to step-up Covaxin production

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 17, 2021

Ropes in 3 govt units, funds upgrade of Bharat Bio facility to raise monthly output to 10 cr doses by Sept

The Government has unveiled a plan to expand the manufacture of indigenous vaccine, Covaxin. The aim is to make 10 crore doses a month, by September.

The plan involves upgrading Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Ltd, which produces Covaxin, besides building-up the production capacities of public sector manufacturers — Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corp, Indian Immunologicals Ltd, and Bharat Immunologicals & Biologicals Corporation — with infrastructure and technology.

The current production capacity will be doubled by May-June and then increased 6-7 fold by July-August. Thta is, production will be stepped up from 1 crore doses in April to 6-7 crore vials per month in July-August. It is likely to reach nearly 10 crore doses per month by September under the government’s Mission Covid Suraksha, the Health Ministry said in a release on Friday.

Financial support

The government is also providing financial support by way of grants of ₹65 crore to Bharat Biotech’s new Bengaluru facility, which is being repurposed to enhance Covaxin production.

This is in addition to the ₹65 crore grant to Haffkine Biopharma. The Centre has asked the State PSU to complete its task in six months instead of the previously agreed 12 months. The facility will have a capacity of 20 million doses a month, once functional, the note said.

Additionally, the government will also support Hyderabad-based Indian Immunologicals Ltd under the National Dairy Development Board, and the Bulandshahr-based Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Ltd under the Department of Biotechnology to prepare their facility to produce 10-15 million doses a month by August-September, the Government note said.

A few weeks ago, inter-ministerial teams had visited the sites of the two key vaccine manufacturers to get their inputs on how production can be ramped up, the note said. Extensive reviews and feasibility studies followed, it added.

While the move is being welcomed by public-health experts, who have been campaigning for India to use its public sector production facilities in public interest, some concern was expressed on whether these plants would be able to up their game quickly. Also, it was not clear if a royalty would be paid by these additional players to Bharat Biotech. The company did not comment on the development.

Published on April 16, 2021

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