Mumbai's Haffkine Bio-Pharma targets 22.8 crore Covaxin vials a year

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Mumbai, Apr 16 (PTI) After receiving permission to make Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, Mumbai-based Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical on Friday said it would take least at one year's time for the company to start actual production.

A top official said the state-run company is targeting to produce 22.8 crore vials of the vaccine per year.

Speaking to reporters here, Dr Sandeep Rathod, managing director, Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation Ltd, said, “Our target is to produce around 22.8 crore vaccine vials but it will take one year for us to start production.” Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech and the ICMR have developed Covaxin, one of the two vaccines being used in the ongoing nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive.

'And now we received a contract to produce the vaccine at our Parel facility in Mumbai,' he said.

'A proposal was submitted in January this year owing to the rising cases of coronavirus and need for more vaccines to immunise a large number of people. It is an ambitious project which is important from the angle of vaccination of such a large population,” said the managing director of the Maharashtra government undertaking.

“There will be an internal team as well as a technical team to set up the facility for production of raw materials. Once we receive all the clearances from the Centre about safety and quality standards, we will start vaccine production,” he said.

'The installed capacity of the new facility will be of 22.8 crore vials per year and we will make optimum use of it,' Dr Rathod said.

There are two stages of vaccine manufacturing -- production of drug substance and fill-finish, which means filling the vaccine in bottles and dispatching them to the market, Dr Rathod explained.

“We need a bio-safety level (BSL-III) laboratory for production of drug-substance, which will take at least 7-8 months to come up at the Parel facility of Haffkine. Post-set up, it will be inspected by central agencies and after meeting all quality standards, it will start production. We are hopeful of starting production of the vaccine in one year's period,” he said.

Asked about the pool of experts needed for vaccine production, he said, “We have some experts in this field as well. However, we will also rope in scientists from TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) and the Mumbai university.” The Union government has given its permission to Haffkine to manufacture Covaxin, an indigenously developed COVID-19 jab being made by Bharat Biotech.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had earlier requested the Centre to allow Haffkine to produce Covaxin, an official from the chief minister's office (CMO) said.

Renu Swarup, secretary, the Union Science and Technology Department, has sent an approval letter to Maharashtra chief secretary Sitaram Kunte, the official said.

'Swarup informed the state government that the Centre has approved its request of using infrastructure of Haffkine Bio-Pharmaceutical Corporation for Covaxin production. It was done after approval given by experts, he added.

The Union government has granted one year period to the state to start production. Accordingly, the chief minister has asked Kunte to appoint a senior officer to monitor and carry out the vaccine production in the given time-frame, the official said. PTI ND RSY RSY