India's Biological E. will produce the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine alongside its own candidate, its managing director told Reuters on Tuesday, which could boost the country's overall supplies amid a shortage.
"The infrastructure and plants are completely separate for both the products and we will be producing both independent of each other," Biological E's managing director Mahima Datla said in a text message, declining to give any timeline or other details.
She told Reuters in February that Biological E. was looking to contract-manufacture about 600 million doses of the J&J vaccine annually. India's government, however, did not factor in any production of J&J this year in the country in a list of likely vaccine output released last week.
J&J confirmed to Reuters it was working with Biological E. on manufacturing its vaccine.
"We believe Biological E. will be an important part of our global Covid-19 vaccine supply network, where multiple manufacturing sites are involved in the production of our vaccine across different facilities, sometimes in different countries and continents, before the vaccine can be distributed," a J&J India spokesperson said in an email.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
J&J said last month it had sought permission to conduct a local clinical trial in India for its single-dose vaccine.
Biological E., based in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, also plans to produce 75 million to 80 million doses of its own vaccine a month from August. The drug has been developed with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Dynavax Technologies Corp.
The United States said in March it would finance Biological E.'s efforts to produce at least 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2022.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that India was unlikely to resume major exports of Covid-19 vaccines until at least October as it diverts shots for domestic use, a longer-than-expected delay set to worsen supply shortages from the global COVAX initiative.