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COVID vaccine shortage: What challenges manufacturers face while ramping up production

Updated : May 04, 2021 06:24:35 IST

India recorded 3.57 lakh new COVID cases in the last 24 hours which is the lowest single-day rise in the last 7 days. Active cases have risen at a one-month low of 33,500, but the 24-hour death toll stays above 3,000 for the 7th day in a row.

Even though new cases have seen a seminal fall, vaccine shortage continues to hurt the vaccination drive. Only 17 lakh doses were administered on Monday (May 3) in the 18-44 age group, and just 2.15 lakh people were given the vaccine across 12 states in that category.

As the states continue to send out SOS on the shortage of vaccines and depleting supplies, CNBC-TV18 takes a closer look at India’s COVID vaccine manufacturing capacity, the time needed to produce one batch of vaccine, the protocols that need to be followed, the raw materials required, the challenges in ramping up production without compromising on safety, and the logistical challenges.

Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Executive Chairperson of Biocon said that vaccine making is a complex process and it takes around 6-8 weeks to make bulk vaccines.

‘When you are ramping up, there is a lag phase which takes anywhere between 6-8 weeks before you can increase your production. There is technology transfer, there is validation, there is also a quality release time, etc. So it is a complex process which cannot be outsourced easily,” she said.

She also said that the logistics for vaccine transportation must be efficient and seamless. She further added that we need to vaccinate faster but procurement from Centre to State to vaccination centre only delays the process.

Dr. Sharvil Patel, MD of Zydus Cadila said that the whole process of vaccine manufacturing needs mapping and it takes a lot of time. He further added that it takes about 9-12 months to put up a facility for vaccine capacity.

“Every vaccine manufacturing requires a dedicated facility which is made in such a way that all the way from upstream to downstream – upstream is when you revive the cells and produce the cells to make the virus in the protein or any recombinant way and then the whole purification which is multiple column steps that need to be done and then finally you need to filter and make it pure. The whole process of doing that has to be mapped appropriately and unless each and every process is met with the right equipment, you cannot manufacture,” he said.

For the full discussion, watch the video.
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