Bharat Biotech has decided to increase the manufacturing capacity of its COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, to 700 million doses per annum, so as to support vaccination campaigns in India and across the globe, the vaccine maker said on Tuesday.
A statement from the company stated that the manufacturing scale-up has been carried out in a step-wise manner across multiple facilities at Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Sources told news agency Press Trust of India the company had a production capacity of 200 million doses of Covaxin in the beginning.
While, the chairman and managing director of Bharat Biotech, Krishna Ella, during an event said that the company will produce 30 million doses of Covaxin next month against around 20 million doses this month and 15 million in the last month.
“Last month we produced 15 million doses, this month we are reaching 20 million doses, next month we will be making around 30 million doses followed by 70 to 75 million doses,” Krishna Ella said.
He said that the company anticipates reaching a production capacity of up to 800 million doses per annum by July-August.
“We are ramping up the production and by July-August, we will be able to reach 700 to 800 million doses production capacity per annum,” Mr Ella said.
The company suggested that inactivated vaccines, while highly safe, are remarkably complex and costly to manufacture, ending in lower yields when compared to live virus vaccines.
“The company is able to expand Covaxin manufacturing capacity in a short timeline, mainly due to the availability of new specially designed BSL – 3 facilities, first of its kind for manufacturing in India that have been repurposed and preexisting expertise and know-how to manufacture, test and release highly purified inactivated viral vaccines,” Bharat Biotech said.
Production partnerships are being examined with associates in other countries, who have previous expertise with commercial-scale production of inactivated viral vaccines under biosafety containment, it added.
The Hyderabad-based firm said it has partnered with Indian Immunologicals (IIL) to manufacture the drug substance for Covaxin.
The technology transfer process is well initiated and IIL has the capacities and expertise to produce inactivated viral vaccines at commercial scale and under biosafety containment, it added.
The company said it uses a proprietary adjuvant Algel-IMDG, which has now proven to be a safe and effective adjuvant, especially to stimulate memory T cell responses. The organisation and production of the IMDG component have been successfully indigenised and will be manufactured at a commercial scale within the country.
“This is the first instance where a novel adjuvant has been commercialised in India,” Bharat Biotech said.
Covaxin has got Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for COVID-19 treatment in India and in several countries across the globe with another 60 in the process, it added.
EUA’s have now been received from Mexico, the Philippines, Iran, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Guyana, Venezuela, Botswana, Zimbabwe, among several other countries. Besides, EUA’s are in process in the US and several European countries, the company said.
Cost for the vaccine for international markets and supplies to governments under EUA’s have been fixed between USD 15-20 per dose, it added.
Taking into consideration the need for vaccination, Mr Ella said injectable vaccines only protect the lower lung, not the upper lung so many people may still get the virus after vaccination but it won’t be harmful and one gets protection against the seriousness of the disease. Wearing a mask is a must even after vaccination.