Monthly output of 25mn doses to continue till Aug: Bharat Biotech
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, a senior executive said in an interview -- numbers that will guide the speed and spread of India’s vaccine programme, which hopes to vaccinate 940 million people, the entire population aged 18 years or older, 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 company executive, Bharat Biotech International Ltd.
The executiveadded that starting July, Bharat Biotech will sell 25% of its production to private hospitals, as against the 10% it does now. And the company is hoping to get a better price from the government, than the ₹157.50 it currents does per dose. the price per dose for private hospitals is ₹1200.
“There are future orders that central government is discussing with us; we are looking at requesting for a better price. It is not just the cost of vaccine but also distribution cost of supplies to states that we have to take care of that increases the overall cost, which is there needs to be better price. For the private market we don’t see any changes for now,” the executive said.
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The government has so far bought 85 million doses of Covaxin (10 through the PM Cares Fund and 75 directly), and placed advance orders (paying 30%) for an additional 190 million doses.
Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is one of the three vaccines currently in use in India. The others are Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, made by Serum Institute of India, and Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine currently being imported by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, which will also market the doses locally made by a clutch of Indian companies starting August. SII makes around 100 million doses of Covishield a month. India is expected to import around 18 million doses of Sputnik V till the end of July, after which domestic manufacturing is expected to kick in. It isn’t known how many doses will be made, although Russian Direct Investment Fund, which manages the commercial aspect of Sputnik V has said 850 million doses will be produced by local tie-ups in a year, with the production likely to start at around July-August .
Explaining the production scale-up the executive said: “We actually see annualized production, and it is going to reach 800 million mark by the end of this year. We have initiated technology transfer with three institutions through department of biotechnology, and these companies are also preparing their facilities for the purpose, especially setting up a bio safety level- 3 laboratory, and should start production in some time.”
The three are Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Hyderabad, and Bharat Immunologicals & Biologicals Ltd, Bulandshahar, Uttar Pradesh.
He also added that the manufacture of Covaxin takes anywhere between 90 to 120 days for a batch, and that, as a result, there is no scope for any ad hoc changes to be made to supply plans. Exports, he said, are not on the horizon yet. “Our doses are committed well in advance; there is no possibility of making sudden changes. Same goes for exporting as government has clearly indicated that priority is Indian citizens. Even though the list of countries that have requested for vaccine doses is piling up continuously but exports will depend only on government approvals.”
At least eight countries have requested Bharat Biotech for Covaxin supplies.