Bharat Biotech invites vaccine makers to produce Covaxin to address shortage

"People say that Covaxin should be given to other companies for manufacturing. Bharat Biotech has welcomed this when we discussed it with them," NITI Aayog member

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The central government and Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech are willing to invite other companies which want to produce Covaxin to help scale up its production, a top government advisor said on Thursday, as India grapples with a dire shortage of coronavirus vaccines.

“People say that Covaxin should be given to other companies for manufacturing. I am happy to say that Covaxin manufacturing company (Bharat Biotech) has welcomed this when we discussed it with them,” NITI Aayog member Dr VK Paul said.

“Under this vaccine, a live virus is inactivated and this is done only in BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) labs. Not every company has this. We give an open invitation to companies who want to do this. Companies that want to manufacture Covaxin, should do it together. The centre will assist so that capacity is increased,” Dr Paul said.

The statement came on a day when the government announced it hoped to have more than 200 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines between August to December this year amid criticism that the government had mishandled the vaccine plan.

India recorded more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths for a second straight day on Thursday as infections stayed below 4 lakh, and extended the interval between doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to up to 16 weeks amid a shortage of vaccines in several states.

Experts remain unsure when numbers will peak and concern is growing about the transmissibility of the variant that is driving infections in India and spreading worldwide.

The second wave of infections, which erupted in February, has been accompanied by a slowdown in vaccinations, although Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that vaccinations would be open to all adults from May 1.

Although it is the world’s largest vaccine producer, India has run low on stocks in the face of the huge demand. As of Thursday, it had fully vaccinated just over 3.82 crore people, or about 2.8 per cent of a population of about 135 crore, government data shows.

“We are going through a phase of finite supply. The entire world is going through this. It takes time to come out of this phase,” Dr Paul said. Some consignments of the Sputnik vaccine had also arrived in the country and he was hopeful they would be available from next week, he said.

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