Bharat Biotech Thursday announced it will manufacture additional doses of Covaxin at its rabies vaccine facility in Gujarat and this ramp up, expected to take up to four months, will increase its Covid vaccine capacity by 17 million doses a month, according to Suchitra Ella,Joint Managing Director, Bharat Biotech.
The Hyderabad company decided to use its Chiron Behring vaccine facility, which it acquired from GlaxoSmithKline to make rabies vaccines in 2019, to implement a “quick” ramp up of the Covid-19 vaccine, which it developed jointly with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
“The company plans to produce 200 million doses of Covaxin per annum in the GMP facilities that are already operational for the production of vaccines based on Inactivated Vero Cell Platform Technology, under stringent levels of GMP and biosafety,” stated the company in a press statement.
The product is expected to become available from the fourth quarter of the 2021 calendar year (October).
Before this, the company had arranged for capacities to make 700 million doses a year of Covaxin across its facilities in Hyderabad and Bengaluru. This would mean a total monthly capacity of around 58 million doses. However, the company is still in the process of increasing its production to reach this maximum capacity.
The Hyderabad vaccine maker managed to touch a capacity of 20 million doses a month in April and was expecting to make around 30-35 million doses in May, Bharat Biotech Chairman and Managing Director Dr Krishna Ella said during an interview to NDTV last month.
Bharat Biotech’s additional facility is expected to contribute to the government’s target of ramping up the doses of Covid-19 vaccines available for the Indian population between August and December.
At least four manufacturers have come on board to increase Bharat Biotech’s capacity to make the Covid-19 vaccine, which is one of the jabs currently approved and available in the country for use. They are Maharashtra’s Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation, the Centre’s Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Corporation, Indian Immunologicals Ltd and a consortium of OmniBRx Biotechnologies, Hester Biosciences and the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre.
As a result of the first three collaborations, the government expects production of Covaxin to increase to 135 million doses a month by November from 30 million doses in May, according to a presentation given by Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh L Mandaviya on Tuesday. The addition of the consortium in Gujarat would lead to an additional 20 million doses to Gujarat in 3-4 months, according to the presentation.
The government has also received “in principle” interest from five German companies to make Covaxin, according to Mandaviya. Four other countries have also expressed interest in manufacturing this vaccine, he said. However, international manufacturing of the indigenously developed vaccine would be allowed on the condition that at least half of the supply produced would be sent to India, according to him.
“We have told the world that if any country wants to make Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, then they should make it and export 50 percent of their production to India,” he said during his presentation, which was given during a conference organised by the Swadeshi Jagran Manch. “We had put out an EOI,” he said.
It is unclear at the moment which German companies have expressed interest in manufacturing Covaxin and how many doses they can make.