INDIA: Mumbai: In a significant development, the Union Government has allowed the Mumbai-based Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Limited to produce anti-coronavirus vaccine “Covaxin” following technology transfer from the Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Corporation.
The decision was communicated to the Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte, by Renu Swarup, the Secretary, Union Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday.
In her letter, Swaroop stated that the Subject Expert Committee(SEC) has granted permission to manufacture “Covaxin” within a year. She also stated that the Haffkine should recruit experienced and trained technical experts and should produce the vaccine as early as possible given the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and indicated that the vaccine production can start in the state at a higher scale. He also instructed Kunte to constitute a committee of experts to oversee the production of vaccines. Haffkine is soon expected to embark on vaccine production, putting experienced and trained scientists on the job, CMO tweeted.
In January 2021, the Haffkine Institute, the biomedical company owned by the Maharashtra government, had sought permission from the Centre for the transfer of technology from Bharat Biotech, which in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, has developed “Covaxin”. The Maharashtra government had requested the centre to allow Haffkine either to produce vaccines on the technology-transfer basis or fill-and-finish basis.
During his visit to Haffkine Institute on March 21, Thackeray had said that the institute can produce 126 million “Covaxin” dosages. He had also said that Haffkine and Bharat Biotech could jointly produce Covaxin with the establishment of a new plant on the corporation’s Parel premises in south-central Mumbai at a cost of Rs 154 crore. Haffkine had already held preliminary talks with Bharat Biotech for the technology transfer.
The Haffkine, the 47-year-old premier vaccine manufacturing company, has the necessary experience and expertise in vaccine production. It is engaged in the development and production of a wide range of bacterial and viral vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, plague, poliomyelitis, and rabies. It also formulates pharmaceutical products, disinfectants, ointments, injectables, syrups, and mixtures.
This is for the first time that another pharmaceutical company, which is not part of the vaccine development process, is being given the technology. Haffkine is one of the country’s oldest and premier biomedical research facilities.
The decision will boost India’s vaccine production at a time the country is seeing a resurgence of the infection and the vaccination drive against COVID-19 is being expanded. Several states have reported a shortfall in vaccine stocks earlier in the month, some of them even had to turn beneficiaries away after running out of shots – a claim that has been vehemently denied by the Centre.
The drug controller general of India (DCGI) has already approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, “Sputnik V”, for emergency use in India. It will be imported and marketed by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, a process that is expected to start within weeks.
Additional vaccines are in the offing
The first two: Pune-based Serum Institute of India’s locally-made Oxford COVID-19 vaccine ‘Covishield’ and Bharat Biotech’s indigenously manufactured “Covaxin”, are being already used. India is expected to get vaccines from five additional manufacturers: “Sputnik V”(in collaboration with Dr. Reddy’s), Johnson & Johnson vaccine (in collaboration with Hyderabad based Biological E Ltd), “Novavax” vaccine (in collaboration with Serum India), Ahmedabad based “Zydus Cadila”s vaccine, and Bharat Biotech’s “Intranasal” Vaccine.
In the meanwhile Maharashtra on Thursday reported 61,695 fresh coronavirus cases, taking the tally to 36,39,855, while 349 new fatalities pushed the toll to 59,153, the state health department said The COVID-19 case tally is the second-highest single-day count so far after 63,294 infections were reported in the state on April 11. Also, 53,335 patients were discharged during the day, taking the number of recovered cases to 29,59,056, the department said. Maharashtra is now left with 6,20,060 active cases, the Health Department said in a release.