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Exclusive | SII, Bharat Biotech made additional 40-50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine available in August

Increased vaccine supplies have helped the government to accelerate its inoculation drive

September 02, 2021 / 05:27 PM IST
India achieved its highest daily vaccination and achieved the milestone of administering one core COVID-19 vaccine doses in one day for the first time on August 27. As many as 1,00,64,032 doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered on August 27 taking the total vaccine doses administered to 63.09 crore. [Representative image]

India achieved its highest daily vaccination and achieved the milestone of administering one core COVID-19 vaccine doses in one day for the first time on August 27. As many as 1,00,64,032 doses of coronavirus vaccine were administered on August 27 taking the total vaccine doses administered to 63.09 crore. [Representative image]


Supplies of Covishield and Covaxin, the main Covid-19 vaccines used in India, were ramped up by 40-50 million doses in August, helping the government to accelerate its nationwide vaccination drive and administer one dose to over one-third of the population.

Serum Institute of India, the manufacturer of Covishield, produced 150 million doses last month and is expected to maintain this level of output in September, people aware of the matter told Moneycontrol. The Pune-based company produced 110-120 million doses in July.

At this production rate, Serum Institute’s output will cross a billion doses per annum by December, the people said.

With government officials hinting at a possible reduction in the gap between two doses of Covishield from 84 days in the days ahead, demand for Covishield is expected to jump.

“We are always working towards raising production but we can’t discuss numbers,” said a person with knowledge of developments at Serum Institute, asking not to be identified.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin, which had been struggling to add capacity, managed to increase production and supplied 21 million doses of Covaxin to the government in August, people familiar with the matter said.

Bharat Biotech did not respond to queries on the matter.

The Hyderabad-based company said earlier this week it had started commercial rollout of vaccines from the Ankleshwar unit in Gujarat. Bharat Biotech has already deployed production lines at its Hyderabad, Malur, Bengaluru and Pune campuses and the addition of Ankleshwar will augment its Covaxin production capacity. The company has also started receiving bulk drugs from public sector vaccine maker Indian Immunologicals Ltd. last month.

The government last month approved emergency use of Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D vaccine for those aged 12 years and above, making it the sixth to be used in India’s inoculation drive.

Zydus said it expects to have 10 million doses of the vaccine ready by October. The vaccine needs to be taken in three doses.

In addition to ZyCoV-D, large supplies of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine are expected to enter the market by the end of September. The government has also approved Covid-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for emergency use.

Vaccination ramp-up

According to CoWIN, the online platform used to implement and monitor the vaccination drive, India has so far delivered over 665 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines - 582 million doses of Covishield, or 87 percent of the total, and about 80 million doses of Covaxin.

The government said on September 2 that more than 47.8 million doses are still unutilised and available with the states and Union Territories.

India had vaccinated 36.4 percent of the population with one dose as of August 31 and fully vaccinated 10.8 percent.

Monthly vaccine manufacturing capacity is expected to rise to about 360 million doses by the year-end, CARE Ratings said in a report. While India now vaccinates more than 5 million people a day on average, the country needs at least 2 billion doses to cover the entire population.

“The vaccination drive has been ramped up through availability of more vaccines, advance visibility of vaccine availability to states and Union Territories for enabling better planning by them and streamlining the vaccine supply chain,” the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on September 2.

As part of the nationwide vaccination drive, the Central government provides 75 percent of the vaccines produced locally free of cost to the states and Union Territories.
Viswanath Pilla is a business journalist with 14 years of reporting experience. Based in Mumbai, Pilla covers pharma, healthcare and infrastructure sectors for Moneycontrol.
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