India readies state-run firms to manufacture Covaxin


NEW DELHI: India is helping state run firms—Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Indian Immunologicals Ltd (IIL) and Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Corporation Ltd (BIBCOL)— to gear up for manufacturing Covaxin to help meet the vaccine shortage in the country.

This comes against the backdrop of Bharat Biotech agreeing to share the formulation of Covaxin with other manufacturers to increase production of its covid-19 vaccine. Covaxin has been developed by Bharat Biotech in association with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

According to the Union government, while Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation, under the Maharashtra government, is being given 65 crore as grant to make its facility ready for producing 20 million monthly doses, National Dairy Development Board’s IIL is being given a 60 crore grant. In addition, the department of biotechnology’s BIBCOL is being provided with a 30 crore grant to manufacture at least 10 million doses per month.

“Further, Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre, department of science and technology Govt. of Gujarat along with Hester Biosciences and OmniBRx has also firmed up its discussions with Bharat Biotech to scale up the Covaxin technology and to produce minimum 20 million doses per month. Technology transfer agreement have been finalized with all manufacturers,” ministry of science and technology said in a statement on Saturday.

Covaxin was developed with seed strains received from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), and the phase 3 clinical trial was co-funded by ICMR.

Even as there is a shortage of vaccines in various parts of the country, the government expects 2.16 billion doses of covid-19 vaccines between August and December, including the jabs that are currently in clinical trials.

“To augment the capacity of indigenous production of Covaxin under the mission, the department of biotechnology, Government of India in April, 2021 provided financial support as grant to vaccine manufacturing facilities for enhanced production capacities, which is expected to reach more than 10 crore doses per month by September, 2021,” the statement said.

Addressing a news conference this week, Dr VK Paul, member (health) of government think-tank NITI Aayog, said the Hyderabad-based company has agreed with proposals made by several states for sharing the chemistry of Covaxin to boost its production at a time when the country is facing an acute shortage of covid vaccines.

“As a part of this augmentation plan, capacities of Bharat Biotech Ltd, Hyderabad as well as other public sector manufactures are being upgraded with required infrastructure and technology. Financial support is being provided as grant from GoI to the tune of approx. 65 crore to Bharat Biotech’s new Bengaluru facility which is being repurposed to increase the capacity of vaccine production,” the statement added.

The vaccine may also prove to be promising protection for children against covid-19 in future as the Drugs Controller General of India on Thursday gave a green signal to Bharat Biotech’s proposal to carry out a phase- II/III clinical trial of Covaxin for those in the age group of 2 to 18 years. The trial will be conducted on 525 healthy volunteers.

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