Centre to take up Covaxin supply issues with Biotech
The Union ministry of health and family welfare is looking into delays in Covaxin supply timelines, and has discussed this with the vaccine’s manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, people familiar with the matter said, although it is still not clear whether the Hyderabad-based company will meet the target of 400 million doses it is expected to deliver between August and December, based on government’s projected availability of vaccines.
“As of now, they (Bharat Biotech) will fulfil their supply obligations. The health secretary has personally reviewed the matter,” said a senior government official who asked not to be named.
Bharat Biotech did not respond to HT’s queries on the matter, but in a statement in May it said, “Production scale up of vaccines is a step-by-step process, involving several regulatory standard operating procedures of good manufacturing practices. There is a four month lag time for Covaxin to translate into actual vaccination.”
The company supplied 28 million doses to the Centre till June 12, a fraction of the total purchase order of 80 million, according to Centre’s affidavit in the Supreme Court on June 26.
According to the affidavit against the March 12 purchase order of 20 million doses, 1.83 million (1,836,840) vaccine doses are still pending; and supplies are yet to commence against a May 5 order for 50 million doses, to be delivered between May and July.
It is clear from the affidavit, and the government’s own statements from April, that Covaxin supplies have been well below estimates, likely because of the complex manufacturing process.
The ministry of science and technology, in a statement issued in April on augmentation of manufacturing capacity for Covaxin, said, “The current production capacity of indigenously developed Covaxin vaccine will be doubled by May-June 2021 and then increased nearly 6-7 fold by July-August 2021 i.e. increasing the production from 1 crore (10 million) vaccine doses in April 2021 to 6-7 crore (60-70 million) vaccine dose/month in July-August. It is expected to reach nearly 10 crore (100 million) doses per month by September 2021.”
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A senior company executive recently said that Bharat Biotech will continue to produce 25 million doses of its Covaxin vaccine till at least August this year, “but hopes to be producing 60-70 million doses by the end of the year”. “The current production capacity is 25 million doses per month and this is likely to be maintained till August-September this year, after which more supplies will happen. In next two month we will be starting production in two of our facilities in Ankleshwar, Gujarat, and Bengaluru, Karnataka. These facilities are being repurposed and the production is likely to start in next two months,” said a top company executive told HT.
“We actually see annualised production, and it is going to reach 800 million mark by the end of this year.”