Mumbai-based Haffkine Institute recently received approval from the Centre to manufacture Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin. Sandeep Rathod, managing director of the Maharashtra government-owned Haffkine Institute, spoke to Yogesh Naik about the augmentation of its vaccine production capacity and vaccine roll-out plans.
How did Haffkine get approval for production of Covaxin?
We submitted a proposal in December under the Centre’s Department of Biotechnology’s Mission Covid Suraksha to augment the manufacturing capacity of Covaxin. We gave a proposal for bulk production and asked for seed transfer and technology along with monetary help for construction of the facility.
After it was approved last month, we also approached the Maharashtra government. We received a grant of Rs 65 crore from the Centre, and from the state, we got Rs 94 crore to commence operations. We will sign MoU with Bharat Biotech in 15 days after which the technology transfer will begin.
How many of the vaccines will you produce and when will the first one roll out?
We will have the capacity of producing 22.8 crore doses annually and the roll-out will take around eight to 10 months. The time taken is largely to set up a plant, which is not a conventional brick-and-mortar facility. It is a bio-safety level – 3 facility and it has to be maintained under negative pressure… .
What changes do you have to make at your centre in Parel to make this vaccine?
There are two components of making the vaccine. In one facility, we will process the raw material for which we are constructing a new facility on the premises. The bottling of the vaccines will be done in our existing plant.
Has the pricing for the vaccines that you will produce been decided?
We have been told by the central government to commence operations. The other modalities will be discussed later. Our focus right now is on constructing the facility. But our pricing will be competitive as we work on a no profit no loss basis.