Bar use of calf serum in vaccine production, PETA urges govt.

Animal rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has urged the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) V.G. Somani to direct vaccine manufacturers to replace new-born calf serum (NBCS) with animal-free, commercially available and chemically-defined media for the production of COVID-19 vaccine.

PETA cited reports that Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, uses NBCS during the production stage as the trigger for its appeal.

“The calves used in the extraction of this serum are taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, which traumatises and distresses both the mother and calf,” said PETA India Science Policy Adviser Ankita Pandey.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Slaughter House) Rules, 2001, prohibits the slaughter of pregnant animals and animals less than three-months-old. Animal-free media were commercially available and could be used to grow Vero cells for virus production instead of using NBCS extracted by slaughtering calves, PETA contended.

The use of animal-derived serum could also delay COVID-19 vaccine production if shortages were experienced as vaccine production increased, PETA said.

Refuting social media posts relating to the composition of Covaxin that suggested the vaccine contains NBCS, the Union Health Ministry had on Wednesday said the final vaccine (Covaxin) “does not contain NBCS at all and the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine product.”

The Ministry said NBCS was used only for preparation/growth of vero cells. The vero cells, after growth, were washed to make them free from NBCS. Thereafter, the cells were infected with coronavirus and completely destroyed in the process of viral growth. This grown virus was also killed (inactivated) and purified. This killed virus was then used to make the final vaccine. In the final vaccine formulation, no calf serum was used, it added.

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Printable version | Jul 31, 2021 3:46:30 AM |

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