Paraguay has cancelled the order for one million doses of Covaxin, the COVID-19 vaccine produced by India's Bharat Biotech, media reports said on June 7.
While an official statement was awaited, sources told Hindustan Times that the supply contract has been scrapped due to quality control issues.
The newspaper claimed that Paraguayan health minister Julio Borba, while speaking to a regional news channel last week, confirmed that the government will initiate the cancellation of Covaxin order.
“It is there (the agreement), but it is also in the process of closing. We had problems and we decided to close the contract with them, it is in the process of being closed," the report quoted him as saying.
Bharat Biotech was yet to react to the development by the time preliminary reports had emerged. The company sources, however, told Business Standard that all export orders already stand cancelled as the vaccine production has been halted.
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.
"This is an old development, because Bharat Biotech stopped exports of Covaxin long back, and is now upgrading its manufacturing sites. Any orders therefore stand cancelled," a source told the publication, in response to the reports that blamed quality issues for the cancellation of order by the Paraguayan government.
Bharat Biotech had, on April 1, announced the temporary slowing down of production of Covaxin across its manufacturing facilities, noting that it has completed its supply obligations to procurement agencies and foresees a decrease in demand.
The vaccine maker had said that it would focus on the pending facility maintenance, process and facility optimisation activities for the coming period.
On April 2, a day after the company announced the slowing down of Covaxin production, the World Health Organisation said it was suspending the vaccine's supply through the UN procurement agencies."There will be interruption of supply of Covaxin due to suspension of production for export...Bharat has committed to comply by addressing the GMP deficiencies and is developing a corrective and preventive action plan, for submission to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) and WHO," the global health agency had said.