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Wockhardt offers to make 2 billion Covid vaccine doses a year

Outside of India, Wockhardt already has an agreement with the UK government to “fill and finish” Covid-19 vaccines exclusively for the UK.

Written by Prabha Raghavan | New Delhi |
Updated: May 26, 2021 7:02:05 am
The government is examining the company’s offer.

Indian pharmaceutical company Wockhardt has told the government it can produce as many as two billion doses a year of most Covid-19 vaccines, starting with a capacity of 500 million doses by February 2022.

In a formal submission to the Centre earlier this month, Mumbai-based Wockhardt has sought help to identify potential partners in the country whose vaccines it could produce, The Indian Express has learnt. It is also in the process of “accessing” some of the technology to make Covid-19 vaccines. It has told the government it has the manufacturing and research capability to create a diversified portfolio that would allow it to produce and supply mRNA, protein-based and viral vector-based vaccines.

The government is examining the company’s offer. Queries to Wockhardt remained unanswered by press time Tuesday.

In a recent presentation at a seminar organised by Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Mansukh L Mandaviya had said, “Wockhardt had last week told us it also wants to tie up with any company (for manufacturing Covid-19 vaccines). So, we are also working on that. We will get them tied up with one of the companies.”

Explained

A quick plan to ramp up

The government has an opportunity to not only diversify its short-term supply of vaccines by using capacities of companies like Wockhardt, but also secure access to vaccines in the long term.

Outside of India, Wockhardt already has an agreement with the UK government to “fill and finish” Covid-19 vaccines exclusively for the UK. So far, it has been using its plant in North Wales to fill the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine into vials and package them for use in the country’s immunisation programme. As per the agreement, its capacity will be used for other Covid-19 vaccines the UK government requires it to fill and finish.

The development is crucial, as India has been struggling to meet its requirement for vaccines to cover its population — a problem that has pushed companies like Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech to even repurpose their capacities to make other life-saving vaccines.

Wockhardt does not plan to manufacture Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at this time, given the specific requirements of a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL 3) facility and the longer output time.

“The idea is not to make two billion doses of a single vaccine, but to have 2-3 vaccines available so that there is a more sustainable activity,” a source close to the development said on condition of anonymity.

Wockhardt is planning to “quickly” establish the capacity to make 500 million doses a year of “any” Covid-19 vaccine using these platforms. It would take around six to nine months to set up this capacity. Talks are on with several firms, and an agreement with an international company is likely “in the next few weeks”, the source said.

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