The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is looking into delays in supply of Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine doses and has discussed the issue with the jab’s manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, the Hindustan Times reported.
However, the news report suggested that it was unclear if Bharat Biotech would be able to meet the target of 400 million doses it is expected to deliver between August and December, as seen in the government’s vaccine availability projection.
The newspaper quoted a senior government official who is aware of the matter as saying that the Hyderabad-based company will fulfil their supply obligations as of now, adding that the “health secretary has personally reviewed the matter”.
Bharat Biotech is said to have supplied 2.8 crore doses to the union government till June 12. That figure is only a fraction of the 8-crore dose purchase order the Centre has placed, according to the government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court.
To boost the production of the indigenous jab, the company is aiming to operationalise more facilities in Gujarat and Karnataka over the next two months.
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.
More than 32.3 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered in India as of June 28. However, a wide majority of them were shots of Covishield, the jab produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
While Covaxin has received an emergency use authorisation in multiple countries including Iran and Mexico, it is currently in the process of applying for the World Health Organization (WHO)'s approval.
Rapid mass vaccination is being seen as the best way to avert a possible third wave of novel coronavirus infections and return to some level of normalcy. Currently, not more than 5.6 crore people in India are fully vaccinated.Follow Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here