National Expert Group meets Covid-19 vaccine makers to discuss road ahead

The committee took an update from these vaccine makers on the current stage of development of the various candidates
The National Expert Group on vaccine administration met leading domestic vaccine makers on Monday to discuss the road ahead for the development of the indigenous Covid-19 vaccine.

 
Representatives from Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, Zydus Cadila, Gennova Biopharmaceuticals and Biological E met the expert group that is chaired by NITI member Vinod K Paul. In a statement, the health ministry said that the meeting was 'mutually beneficial and productive'. The committee took an update from these vaccine makers on the current stage of development of the various candidates. Manufacturers have discussed their expectations from the government in this regard.

"We want to have clarity on a few things from the government - initial procurement volumes, financial aid or support to scale up manufacturing of the vaccine, and around which stage of development this commitment can come from the government. The discussions were fruitful and there would be subsequent meetings," said a manufacturer, who did not divulge further details.

Meanwhile, Hyderabad-based Biological E (BEL) has already set the ball rolling to augment its vaccine making capacity by acquiring Akorn India which has a plant in Himachal and manufactures sterile injectables. Mahima Datla, Managing Director, BEL, said, “We are happy to have made a strategic investment in acquiring Akorn India.  We would leverage BE’s and Akorn India’s capabilities to enhance our supply capacities both in vaccines and in generic injectables. The timing of this acquisition is fortuitous as it will immediately allow us to expand our capacity to manufacture our investigational Covid-19 vaccine.  With these capacities, we would be in a position to offer over one billion doses per annum.”

BEL is in the process of developing a Covid-19 vaccine (and recently announced a tie up with Johnson & Johnson) and will be able to use Akorn's plant at Paonta Sahib, Himachal, for commercial scale manufacture of the vaccine at the appropriate time.

The expert group met last week to discuss the details around vaccine administration. India plans to create a digital infrastructure for inventory management and last mile delivery of Covid-19 vaccines. It will also leverage its manufacturing abilities to supply the Covid-19 vaccine to the world. The Centre would take charge of procurement and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, and the states have been asked to not chart 'separate pathways' for the same. 



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