Home / Companies / News /  Bharat Bio to step up Covaxin output

Bharat Biotech International Ltd will soon ramp up manufacturing of its covid-19 vaccine Covaxin by about 40-50 million, taking its total annual capacity to around 700 million doses, a spokesperson for the company said.

“We are scaling up in three facilities at Hyderabad, as well as a facility at Bengaluru. We are soon increasing the capacity by about 40 million doses per month," the spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The capacity expansion has been delayed from its earlier timeline of December.

Bharat Biotech executive director Sai Prasad in an interview to Mint in October said that it was spending 120-150 crore in scaling up manufacturing capacity that will be operational by December.

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The capacity expansion comes at a time when the company is rushing to meet the demand for its vaccines from India as well as for exports. After sending 5.5 million doses to the government last week, it has received a fresh letter of comfort—or a preliminary order—for 4.5 million doses which will be dispatched when the ministry wants it, a Press Trust of India report said on Tuesday.

The 4.5 million doses include over 800,000 doses that will be sent to Mauritius, Philippines and Myanmar by the ministry of external affairs free of cost as a goodwill gesture, the report said.

A company spokesperson declined to comment on the fresh letter of comfort.

Covaxin, along with Serum Institute of India’s Covishield, was approved by Drugs Controller General of India V.G. Somani earlier this month for vaccination against covid-19.

Both firms have seen strong demand, not just domestically but also globally. Bharat Biotech last week signed a pact with Precisa Medicamentos for the supply of Covaxin to Brazil.

Serum plans to sell 30 million Covishield doses in Bangladesh through a tripartite pact between the company, Bangladeshi drugmaker Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd and the government of Bangladesh. It also has a pact to sell 1.5 million doses in South Africa and 200 million doses to Covax—a World Health Organization-backed facility aimed at equitable access to covid-19 vaccines.

The pact for the supply to Covax includes Covishield as well as Covavax—Serum’s version of the vaccine originally developed by US-based Novavax that is expected to be launched in a few months.

The government started its vaccination drive on Saturday. As of Tuesday, more than 630,000 people have been given the first dose. However, the pace has been slow, with only 54% of the target met. The government has not provided a breakup of how many people have received Covishield and how many Covaxin.

On Tuesday, NITI Aayog member-health V.K. Paul said both Covishield and Covaxin are not recommended for certain people with compromised immune systems, bleeding disorders and those using blood thinners. “Contraindications to covid vaccines have been clarified in SOP (standard operating procedures). For example, neither of the two vaccines is recommended for pregnant women or if you had a reaction to the previous dose... Those criteria should be followed," Paul said.

His statement came after Bharat Biotech made its fact sheet public on Monday, where it said people who have compromised immune systems or are on medicines that affect the immune system should not take Covaxin. Usually, HIV-positive and cancer patients are immune-compromised, as are people who have had organ transplants and are on immunosuppressant medicines.

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