SII and Bharat Biotech halt production of Covid vaccines as demand drops


India’s two major Covid-19 vaccine makers – Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech (BB) – have stopped production of Covid vaccines and will focus on non-Covid vaccines instead.

These two companies combined accounted for more than 98% of the Covid-19 vaccine doses administered in the country. So far, 1.51 billion doses of Covishield and 300 million doses of Covaxin have been administered in India, accounting for 98.36% of the 1.84 billion doses administered in the country.

However, with the drop in demand for vaccination, both companies have stopped the production of shots at their facilities. Sources said there were no new orders from the Indian government and their supply commitments ended on March 31. SII has accumulated about 250 million doses of Covishield stock at its Pune factory, while Bharat Biotech said it has completed all its supply. commitments.

SII had indicated in December that it was halving the production of Covishield because it had 500 million doses in stock in its factory. Half of them were finished doses, while the rest were bulk doses that were not converted into a formulation.

Sources close to SII have confirmed that the company no longer manufactures the Covishield vaccine, as it has sufficient stocks to meet both domestic and export demand. Meanwhile, sources close to Bharat Biotech said the vaccine maker would focus on making vaccines against polio, rabies, which it made before the pandemic hit.

“Whatever batches of Covaxin are in production, they will be finished and shipped. The vaccine takes 120 days to manufacture. Thereafter, there will be no further production of Covaxin until we have final orders,” the source said.

Bharat Biotech had repurposed its factories in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ankleshwar and even Pune to manufacture Covaxin. Bharat Biotech is also working on setting up the manufacturing site for GSK’s Plasmodium falciparum malaria vaccine (RTS,S/AS01E tentatively under the Mosquirix brand), which it manufactures for African countries.

The world’s largest vaccine maker, SII is drawing up plans to redeploy its installed capacity after demand for Covid-19 vaccines fell. Key pipeline vaccines like those for malaria, pneumonia and HPV are expected to enter production in the next few months to about a year, and that will support capacity utilization.

Currently, SII has an annual vaccine manufacturing capacity of approximately 3 billion doses of Covid and non-Covid vaccines. As of March 2019, the company had an installed capacity of approximately 1.5 billion doses. It has doubled the manufacturing capacity of its Pune plant over the past two years. “Typically, vaccine companies redeploy their existing facilities to manufacture different types of vaccines based on the orders they have. Vaccination facilities are generally very flexible. So you can also create a stockpile of finished or bulk vaccines and change that same production line to make other vaccines,” said a vaccine industry veteran.

SII expects its malaria vaccine candidate to enter production by the end of this year. It is now in phase 3 clinical trials in Africa, and licensing of this vaccine is expected by 2023. Therefore, production is expected to start by the end of this year at SII,” a source said.

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