NEW DELHI: Less than 5.5 crore doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been supplied for the Covid vaccination programme till mid-July. It shows that on average, the country may have received less than 1 crore doses per month of the indigenous vaccine, so far.
In response to a question in Parliament on Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry said that till July 16, 5.45 crore doses of Covaxin, co-developed by the ICMR, had been available for public use as against 36.01 crore doses of Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
The low supply of Covaxin has remained a concern despite claims by the government earlier that nearly 10 crore doses of this vaccine may be produced from September, which will help it meet the target of vaccinating all the adult population by the year-end.
In response to a separate question, the ministry also informed the Rajya Sabha that the Hyderabad-based vaccine maker aims to increase the production capacity of Covaxin -- from the existing 5.8 crore to 2.5 crore doses per month.
Despite an explanation offered by the company earlier on a 120-day production cycle, many experts have however pointed out that the vaccine released for consumption has been rather slow.
VK Paul, member, health (Niti Aayog) who also heads the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid, meanwhile, said in a press briefing that as part of the Bharat Biotech’s expansion plan for Covaxin production, it has added its facilities in Ankleshwar in Gujarat and Bengaluru, apart from their already functional Hyderabad facility that is producing Covaxin.
“The Ankleshwar plant is moving towards vaccine production as per the original schedule, but the Bengaluru facility faced some difficulties in operationalisation that led to the lag in Covaxin supplies,” he said.
Paul also added that the production fell slightly behind what was initially expected but now, the company has informed that the glitches have been sorted.
“These are unforeseen circumstances that crop up while executing such highly technical projects that involve tackling live viruses. But now they are on track,” he said.
Meanwhile, the three public sector undertakings—including two directly under the Centre and the one under the Maharashtra government—that were roped in for Covaxin production scale-up are also yet to start the actual manufacturing.