Bharat Biotech watching demand to resume Covaxin production

Bharat Biotech had stopped Covaxin production amid declining demand in early 2022 and claimed to have destroyed 50 million doses over the past few months

April 13, 2023 01:57 pm | Updated 05:06 pm IST - HYDERABAD

“Covaxin is available for supplies based on demand,” said Bharat Biotech as Covid-19 cases rise in India. File Photo.

“Covaxin is available for supplies based on demand,” said Bharat Biotech as Covid-19 cases rise in India. File Photo. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech will wait and watch the demand before resuming production of the indigenously developed Covid-19 vaccine, amid rising Covid-19 cases in India.

“Covaxin is available for supplies based on demand,” the Hyderabad-based vaccine maker said. It had, in early 2022, stopped production of Covaxin amid a declining offtake for the product as well as the number of viral infections cases.

Also read |Ready, or not: On rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and India’s state of preparedness

Also, over the past few months, around 50 million doses of Covaxin had to be destroyed “due to non-procurement, at a great loss for the company,” Bharat Biotech said in response to queries. The company’s wait-and-watch approach comes even as competitor Serum Institute of India resuming production of its COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield.

On Wednesday, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla told PTI that the company has restarted manufacturing of Covishield amid number of cases of the infection on the rise. He added that vaccine manufacturers were ready with the stock but there has been little demand. SII had stopped manufacturing the vaccine in December 2021, according to PTI.

Bharat Biotech also indicated that it is a question of resuming production of Covaxin, as and when the need arises. “We have more than 200 million doses of Covaxin in bulk form,” the company said.

220 crore doses administered

According to government of India a whopping 220.66 crore doses (of which 95.21 crore were second dose and 22.87 crore precaution or booster dose) had been administered in the country as part of the national vaccination drive. The number of vaccinations hover around a few hundreds daily in recent times. In an update on Wednesday, the Centre said 441 doses were administered in last 24 hours.

While a chunk of the nationwide inoculation was with Covishield and Covaxin, primarily due to an early mover advantage they had, a number of other vaccines were also part of India’s arsenal against the pandemic, including the Russian Sputnik V.

Figuring in the list was also the first intranasal vaccine iNCOVACC, developed by Bharat Biotech. “There has been several requests for large scale supplies of iNCOVACC. We will develop an antigen bank of 10 million doses as a stockpile. Capacity for iNCOVACC is very large and can be scaled up as required,” the company said.

The spotlight has turned on vaccine availability in the country with States urging the Centre to ramp up the supplies. At a meeting convened recently by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, to discuss COVID-19 cases and preparedness in the States, Telangana Health Minister T. Harish Rao had appealed to the Centre to make available adequate stocks of the vaccine. He said this pointing out that the vaccination programme had come to a standstill in the State after the Centre stopped supplies.

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