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Coronavirus | Low Covaxin uptake due to ‘Supply side’ constraints: NITI Aayog member

Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin currently constituted only around 8% of the doses administered so far as there were “supply side” constraints, NITI Aayog Member (Health) V.K. Paul said at a seminar on Tuesday.

“We’d like them (Bharat Biotech) to increase the output. As per our current estimate, Bharat Biotech is expected to deliver 120 million (12 crore) doses until August and 480 million is expected from Serum Institute. Serum supplies about 60 million doses now and we'd like that to increase to 80 or 100 million,” Dr. Paul said, speaking at an online seminar organised by the Sun Pharma Science Foundation.

From July and August more vaccines, including from different companies, were expected, he added.

According to the most updated figures available on the government's CoWin website, there were about 42 lakh doses of Covaxin administered so far compared to the roughly 4.4 crore Covishield doses. So far about 48.6 crore vaccine doses have been administered with about 2.1 crore doses given to healthcare and frontline workers.

The Hindu reached out to Bharat Biotech for comment but didn't get a response until press time.

Both Covishield and Covaxin were rolled out under emergency use authorisation but the lack of efficacy data resulted in a significant degree of hesitation. “Now that interim efficacy data is out, there is more confidence in the vaccine,” Dr. Paul added.

Pace not affected

He, however, denied that this was affecting the overall pace of India’s vaccination programme.

“We are able to administer vaccines as per need. We are among the leading countries in the world as far administering vaccinations go and are fully capable of increasing our capacity to peri urban as well as the remotest regions as the situation demand. So I wouldn't agree that our vaccination drive is ‘slow’,” he said in response to a question on the pace of the drive.

Since February India is in the throes of a second wave, with close to 40,000 fresh cases being added everyday primarily from Maharashtra, Punjab.

Sequencing variants

Scientists at the seminar also underlined that there are several Sars-Cov2 variants widely prevalent in the Indian population. Chitra Pattabiraman, of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) said that of the top 10 most prevalent variants in India, none belonged to the UK strain, or the South African strain that are known to have increased infectivity.

“There isn't work yet that identifies the biological properties that have made certain strains more prevalent in India, and so we can't yet call them strains,” she told The Hindu in a phone conversation. Dr. Pattabiraman and her colleagues reported in pre-print research paper last week that an analysis of Sars-Cov2 genomes in Bangalore found a variant B.1.36 that comprised nearly half the major variants circulating in Bengaluru city.

A distinct clade within the B.1.36 lineage was associated with a local outbreak. The E484K amino acid change which is present in both the South African variant B.1.351 and Brazilian strain P.1/B.1.1.28 — termed internationally as 'variants of concern' — was found in a single circulating virus in the B.1.36 lineage.

India has consortium of labs that are sequencing the Sars-Cov2 genomes across the country since December and they have so far reported 750 instances of foreign variants of concern in India. These, however, are being reported in people with an international travel history and there is no information yet on how prevalent the strains are in the local population.

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Printable version | May 9, 2021 10:50:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-low-covaxin-uptake-due-to-supply-side-constraints-niti-aayog-member/article34143008.ece

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