As the country faces a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, DMK Rajya Sabha MP and senior advocate P Wilson wrote to the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan to take all the steps necessary to make use of the three vaccine manufacturing facilities in Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu has three manufacturing facilities capable of producing vaccines in King’s Institute in Chennai, Integrated Vaccine Complex by HLL Biotech in Chengalpattu and Pasteur Institute at Coonoor, according to reports.
Wilson, in his letter, pointed out that all these centres have everything necessary — the machinery and the infrastructure — required to manufacture vaccines at scale. His letter comes at a time when the country is facing a massive shortage of COVID-19 vaccines and after the Additional Solicitor General submitted to the Madras High Court that the facilities lack the technical inputs on how to produce these vaccines.
Slamming the Additional Solicitor General’s stand on the matter, Wilson pointed out that there are two ways to make this happen. He said that one way would be to permit Serum Institute of India (SII, which has the Intellectual Property rights for Covishield) and Bharat Biotech (BB, which has the Intellectual Property rights over Covaxin) to manufacture their vaccines in these facilities on payment of appropriate charges to use the facilities. Another way, according to Wilson’s letter, would be to waive off the patent restrictions and issue compulsory licenses to the three organisations owning the facilities to help them manufacture the vaccines themselves. He pointed out that Section 92 of the Patents Act permits the Union government to issue compulsory licenses to produce a drug in times of a ‘national emergency’ and added that the pandemic qualifies to be called a national emergency.
On Friday, the Union Government and Bharat Biotech reportedly welcomed the decision to call for companies that are willing to manufacture Covaxin to amp up production. The call comes at a time when many states have not been able to start the vaccination drive for those aged between 18 and 44 years due to the non-availability of stock.