Supply of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine has slowed down as the first few batches of the jab manufactured at the pharma firm's new Bengaluru facility were not up to the mark, explained a top government adviser. The supply has slowed down at a time when the Centre is struggling to ramp up the production of COVID-19 vaccines. The Centre plans to vaccinate all adults by the end of 2021.
COVID-19 task force member NK Arora told NDTV in an interview that the Centre was expecting a steeper rise in production of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, but there was a setback due to quality issues at the firm's largest plant.
"Vaccine manufacturing is almost like rocket science. We were expecting a much sharper rise in the production of Covaxin. They have started a new facility in Bengaluru. In addition three public sector undertaking are also working together to augment the total output. Ultimately we are expecting 10-12 crore doses from Bharat Biotech," said Arora told NDTV.
He added that Bharat Biotech's Bengaluru facility is among the world's largest vaccine productions plants. Arora explained that the first couple of batches produced at the Bengaluru facility were not of the right quality. "But the third and fourth batches have now come up which have moved forward," he added. The government hopes that in the next four or six weeks vaccine production will really ramp up at Bharat Biotech.
Arora further added that the initial batches that were not of the right quality were never released for the Centre's nationwide vaccination drive.
To meet the Centre's year-end target, Bharat Biotech will have to boost their production from 1-2 crore doses daily to 10 crore doses per day.
"I am given to understand that in the next few weeks it is possible that they will increase production several-fold," said Arora.
Earlier, the Centre had roped in public sector facilities to boost the supply of COVID-19 vaccine. Arora added that there were no gaps in technology transfer from Bharat Biotech to these public sector facilities.
Arora explained that Indian Immunological would start production in the next two-three months. He added that Haffkine and Bharat Immunologicals and Biologicals Limited (BIBCOL) would take much longer to start production. "The technology transfer is on track", Arora said.
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