30 cities get fresh stock of Covaxin, but no clarity yet on number of doses

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: Covaxin has reached private hospitals in 30 cities within a month of the liberalised and decentralised Covid vaccination policy coming into effect, its manufacturer Bharat Biotech said on Tuesday.

The fresh stock of the country’s first and only indigenously-developed Covid vaccine arriving in hospitals assume significance in the wake of acute scarcity of this vaccine, which had delayed vaccinations of thousands of beneficiaries, due for their second doses.

Apart from the metropolitan cities, the cities where the vaccine has become available in private hospitals include Amritsar, Mohali, Calicut, Ernakulam, Guntur, Raipur, Vizag, Warangal and Kanpur among others. It is, however, not clear how many doses of the vaccine have been supplied to these cities. 

So far, nearly 21.9 crore vaccine doses have been available for the country’s Covid vaccination drive but of this only about 4-4.5 crore doses have been that of Covaxin while Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute of India has been the mainstay of the inoculation drive.

Last week Bharat Biotech has said that it is looking at ramping up the production of the homegrown Covaxin with another plant in Gujarat-Chiron Behrin– where 200 million doses of Covaxin could be produced per annum.

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As of now, the company is producing just about 1.5 crore doses of the vaccine per month which is likely to go up to 4-5 crore doses per month by July this year.

Bharat Biotech said had said that Covaxin production at Chiron Behring, will effectively take the volumes of Covaxin to nearly 1 billion doses per annum, produced at the company’s “own established campuses specialised for manufacturing inactivated viral vaccines under the highest levels of biosafety”.

The company, at the behest of the Union government which is under huge pressure to fulfil huge demands for Covid vaccines in the country, has tied up with three public service undertakings to scale up the production of Covaxin.

These undertakings, however, could take quite a few months before actual productions start.

The government a few days back had announced that 51.5 crore doses of Covid vaccine are to be available for use in India but given that by May end, this number has not reached even 25 crore mark, it is not clear how 25-30 crore additional doses will be available within a span of two months.

The Centre had also claimed that 55 crore doses of Covaxin will be available in India between August-December but many experts tracking the vaccine development consider it a tall order.

There is also a pressure on Bharat Biotech to publish its phase 3 efficacy data in a peer reviewed scientific journal, especially as it has just announced through a press statement that the second interim analysis of the late stage trial showed the vaccine to be 78% effective against infection and 100% effective against severe disease.