Centre says open to facilitate Covaxin tech transfer to ramp up production

Many experts said that more than anything, it is the political will that would be required for an ambitious venture like this.

Published: 13th May 2021 07:36 PM  |   Last Updated: 13th May 2021 07:36 PM   |  A+A-

A health official shows Covaxin dose

A health official shows Covaxin dose. (File photo| Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Amid the growing chorus for technology transfer to mass-produce Covaxin, the Centre on Thursday clarified that a sophisticated technological platform required for the process is a major constraint.

This vaccine, which is an inactivated version of the Covid virus and requires the live virus to be cultured, can only be processed in laboratories categorised as biosafety level 3, stressed VK Paul, member, health, Niti Aayog, who also heads the national Covid task force.

Covaxin was developed by Bharat Biotech with support from ICMR which shares the IP rights of the vaccine. The government health research body had invested about Rs 35 crore in its pre-clinical and clinical trials.

“This suggestion (of technology transfer) has been welcomed by Bharat Biotech but it needs to be understood that Covaxin has been developed from inactivated SARS CoV 2 and can only be developed at laboratories with BSL 3 standards which none of the other companies in India has as of now,” said Paul at a press briefing.

He, however, added that the government will support any firm which is interested in going for this major technical up-gradation, in order to scale up the production of Covaxin in India.

Many experts, however, said that more than anything, it is the political will that would be required for an ambitious venture like this.

“If the whole of India needs to be vaccinated against Covid in a year, the country will need to produce at least 50-55 million doses every day and for that to start happening in 2-3 months from now, the government needs to plan today,” said R Ramakumar, an economist with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai.

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“It should ask Bharat Biotech to transfer technology and quickly start empowering other vaccine makers to produce the vaccine on a large scale but that needs a quick and strong decision making now,” he told this newspaper.

For May-June, the expected doses of Covaxin for India per month is 2 crore while it is expected to reach 6-7 crore per month in July-August.

Those rooting for an aggressive escalation of India’s Covid vaccination programme, meanwhile said this number should go to ideally at least 15 crore a month.

Former Union Health Secretary Sujatha K Rao said that there are 6-8 companies, including some PSUs which need to be immediately roped in by the Centre.

“These companies have the production capacity and as far as safety and quality norms are concerned that can be raised by hand holding the firms now so that Covaxin’s production is raised by a significant proportion in a few months,” she said.

The Centre meanwhile retorted the criticism that it is not doing enough on raising the production of Covaxin and said that it has facilitated the technology transfer agreements between Bharat Biotech with two central PSUs--Indian Immunologicals Ltd, BIBCOL and one Maharashtra government undertaking Haffkine Institute.

The Union government, in a statement also said that it has also extended substantial financial assistance to these three undertakings and while IIL is set to start producing Covaxin from September this year, two others are likely to begin manufacturing by November.

More such collaborations, said the Centre, are likely soon.

Immunologist Seyed Hasnain while batting for such arrangements, pointed out it will be better in terms of ensuring the quality of the product if Bharat Biotech is helped financially by the government to significantly raise its production capacity.


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