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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Decks cleared for Covaxin facility at Bulandshahr

Over the next six months, officials said, the consultant will help set up the manufacturing and fill-finish facility for the Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi |
Updated: June 1, 2021 7:03:19 am
The government had sold 42,000 doses of Covaxin — out of the 1.14 lakh it bought on May 27 from Bharat Biotech at Rs 420 per dose — to over 20 private hospitals for Rs 1,060 each. The hospitals had, in turn, charged recipients Rs 1,560 for a dose. (File)

The Central public sector undertaking Bharat Immunologicals & Biologicals Corporation Limited (BIBCOL), among the three PSUs supported by the Centre to increase the capacity of production of Covaxin, has approved a consultant to help it build the critical BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) high containment facility at Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh, The Indian Express has learnt.

Over the next six months, officials said, the consultant will help set up the manufacturing and fill-finish facility for the Covaxin developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with ICMR.

BIBCOL and Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL), Hyderabad, a facility under National Dairy Development Board, are being backed by the Centre for a facility to provide 10-15 million doses per month. The Bulandshahr unit expects to begin production of Covaxin within the next six months.

“The appointment of a consultant is a very important aspect because this is a very specific job and this has been done in discussion with Bharat Biotech. We cannot take any risk because it has to be flawless, zero-error production. We have to start by first creating the BSL-3 facility,” said Dr Y K Gupta, Chairman, BIBCOL.

BIBCOL, which currently has its oral polio vaccine plant in Bulandshahr, has 60% of the total polio vaccine market share in India and has WHO-cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) certified infrastructure. But it doesn’t have a BSL-3 facility, a critical requirement in the manufacturing of Covaxin since it is developed using the inactivated or killed virus. This process needs stringent procedures to avoid and check for contamination.

Increasing Covaxin supplies is key to India’s Covid-19 vaccination drive.

As of now, it accounts for just 11% of the total doses administered. Unlike, Covishield, where the second dose gap has been extended to 12-18 weeks, the second dose for Covaxin has to be taken after four weeks.

Therefore, the Centre has drawn a roadmap to increase the capacity of Covaxin from 1.7 crore (in May) to 7.7 crore (in July). Also, by roping in the three PSUs, the Centre hopes capacity to reach 12.20 crore doses by October.

Under Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0 Mission COVID Suraksha, to augment the capacity of production of Covaxin, capacities of Bharat Biotech and of three public sector manufacturers are being upgraded with required infrastructure and technology.

As a grant, Rs 65 crore is being provided from the Centre to Bharat Biotech’s new Bengaluru facility repurposed to ramp up vaccine production. The three companies earmarked are: Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, Mumbai, a state unit under Maharashtra government (Rs 65 crore); IIL (Rs 60 crore); and BIBCOL (Rs 30 crore).

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