The production of the Covaxin vaccine against the novel coronavirus will be doubled by May- June and then increased by six to seven-fold by July-August 2021, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) announced on Friday. Hyderabad-based firm Bharath Biotech, which is producing the vaccine, will receive financial assistance worth Rs 65 crore from the Union government to boost production. Presently, Bharath Biotech produces 1 crore vaccine doses a month, which the DBT hopes can be scaled up to reach 10 crore doses a month by September. Rs 65 crore has been granted to Bharath Biotech's new facility at Bengaluru which is being repurposed to increase vaccine production capacity.
Three other state-run facilities — the Haffkine Biopharmaceutical Corporation Ltd in Mumbai, the Indian Immunologicals Limited in Hyderabad and Biologicals Limited in Bulandshahr — have been roped in to produce the Covaxin vaccines. The DBT has granted Rs 65 crore to Haffkine for the same; however, it will take the firm 6-12 months to be able to start producing the vaccine. Once functional, the facility will have a production capacity of 20 million doses per month. The other two firms are expected to begin producing 10-15 million doses a month from August this year.
In the meantime, the CEO of Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla on Friday asked the United States of America to lift its embargo on raw material exports to help ramp up vaccine production. The SII is currently manufacturing the anti-coronavirus vaccine Covishield, developed by Astrazeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine is in use not only in India, but is exported to a number of countries as well.
Earlier in March, Poonawalla had said that the production of coronavirus vaccines and scaling up global availability could be seriously limited due to the ban on exports of critical raw materials by the US. Speaking at an event organised by the World Bank in March, Poonawalla had said that a constraint that has not been addressed is the attainment of critical items needed for vaccine production from the US.