The Centre Has a New Vaccine Procurement Plan. It Looks Like a Paper Tiger.

Illustration: Martina Bulkova/pixabay

On Could 14, NITI Aayog member Vinod Okay. Paul shared the Centre’s new plan to acquire over 2.1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses between August and December 2021.

The plan consists of eight vaccines: Covishield and Covaxin, each at present in use; Sputnik V, which India’s drug regulator has authorised; and 5 others which can be present process trials.

The Centre plans to acquire 1.three billion doses of Covaxin and Covishield; 200 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine, to be produced by Serum Institute; plus 100 million doses of Bharat Biotech’s nasal vaccine. As such, the plan banks on the 2 current producers – Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech – to the tune of 74%.

Till in the present day, the Centre has already ordered 266 million doses of Covishield and 80 million doses of Covaxin. State governments and personal hospitals have individually ordered one other 160 million doses (presumably all of Covishield since we all know Bharat Biotech isn’t but taking orders from states). The 2 producers are anticipated to fulfil all these orders by July 2021.

As of Could 12, India had administered 178 million doses – 160 million of Covishield and 18 million of Covaxin.

Covishield and Covavax

A easy calculation tells us that Serum Institute is anticipated to produce 106 million doses to the Centre and 160 million to state governments by July, which is barely three months away. This expectation far exceeds the corporate’s said capability – to provide round 65 million doses a month, and even this goal the corporate has but to satisfy.

Contemplating India has already exported 66 million Covishield doses, Serum Institute has up to now produced 226 million doses in 4 months, from mid-January to in the present day. Keep in mind that this firm had claimed that it had stockpiled virtually 100 million doses by the primary week of January, a short time earlier than India’s vaccination drive started. Assuming a lag of 1 month between manufacturing and provide for testing and launch, the common month-to-month manufacturing works out to 42 million – about 65% of the said capability. This might be as a consequence of materials constraints, as the corporate has additionally been declaring.

As well as, its plan to extend capability to 100 million doses per thirty days has been delayed from Could 2021 to July 2021, even because it struggles to utilise its current capability.

Now, the Centre expects 750 million doses of Covishield from Serum Institute from August to December, at 150 million doses per thirty days. Serum Institute can also be anticipated to produce 200 million of Novavax’s vaccine, ‘Covavax’, taking its complete expectation to 950 million doses in 5 months – on the price of 190 million per thirty days.

In different phrases, that is an expectation for the corporate to enhance its efficiency 5x, enhance its present said capability by an element of three and practically double the capability that the corporate hopes to realize from July. It is a very, very lengthy shot.

Serum Institute commenced bridging trials for Covavax on the finish of March 2021, and delayed its launch from June to September 2021. These bulletins got here earlier than the US-based Novavax mentioned that it will file for authorisation within the US and Europe solely within the third quarter of 2021. So the chances of India getting Covavax earlier than the top of 2021 seem dim for the time being.

Certainly, Serum Institute supplying 500 million doses for Indians between August and December 2021 might be a commendable achievement – on condition that the corporate’s materials constraints are but to be resolved and its export commitments aren’t very versatile.

Covaxin and BBV154

The Centre has additionally ordered 80 million doses of Covaxin doses. Of this, 18 million have already been administered and one other amount should be within the pipeline. With its new plan, the Centre expects Bharat Biotech to produce 550 million doses between August and December 2021. There may be cause to assume that is one more lengthy shot.

Bharat Biotech’s precise efficiency has been solely about 5 million doses per thirty days within the final 4 months. On April 20, it introduced plans to extend its capability to roughly 700 million doses a yr, however with out indicating a timeline to realize this milestone.

That mentioned, the corporate’s expanded capability would solely allow 60 million doses a month, whereas the Centre’s plan already expects an output of 110 million doses a month from August.

The Centre has assumed the duty of augmenting Covaxin manufacturing underneath a mission referred to as ‘Covid Suraksha’. It’s readying three models – Indian Immunologicals Ltd., Bharat Immunologicals and Biologics Ltd, and the Haffkine Institute – to fabricate Covaxin. The primary two are anticipated to provide 10-15 million doses per thirty days and Haffkine, 20 million doses per thirty days. Haffkine has additionally mentioned that will probably be a yr earlier than the vaccine turns into out there, though the federal government is pushing it to begin provides in six months.

The Centre’s plan expects a rise in manufacturing capability from 10 million doses in April to about 60-70 million doses per thirty days by July or August. An additional enhance to almost 100 million doses by September is on the anvil.

Bharat Biotech additionally introduced on March 14 that the Biovet plant close to Pune is anticipated to develop into totally useful by the top of August. We don’t know the capability of this plant, nevertheless.

Plainly the elevated output of Covaxin will come from 5 totally different manufacturing areas, 4 of which have been recognized solely lately. Expertise switch, supplies and educated personnel constraints are certain to be important within the brief run. Little doubt taking these steps in the present day will assist India in the long run however the authorities anticipating a mean output of 110 million doses per thirty days from August is simply unreasonable.

It will likely be an excellent achievement even when the mixed efforts of all the businesses concerned on this train generate an output of round 200-250 million doses of Covaxin within the final 5 months of 2021.

The plan additionally consists of 100 million doses of Bharat Biotech’s adenovirus nasal vaccine, BBV154. The corporate co-developed the vaccine with Biologics Therapeutics Centre, the Washington College Faculty of Drugs, St. Louis., and is at present reviewing interim security and immunogenicity information from a part 1 trial involving 175 contributors. Bharat Biotech can also be evaluating the necessity for a booster dose. For now, it isn’t clear if India’s drug regulator will approve it to be used earlier than part three medical trials.

In September 2020, the corporate had revealed an intention to fabricate a billion doses a yr of the single-dose nasal vaccine at its Hyderabad facility.

Sputnik V

Subsequent, the Indian authorities expects 156 million doses of Sputnik V between August and December this yr. The primary dose of this vaccine was administered on March 14, at a price of Rs 995, from the 1.5 lakh doses that Dr Reddy’s Labs has imported from Russia.

Sputnik V is an adenovirus-vector vaccine that must be saved at -18º C, which presents a problem for India, a rustic that lacks the corresponding refrigeration infrastructure. One other peculiarity is that the 2 doses of Sputnik V have totally different composition.

Though Dr Reddy’s has an association to distribute 250 million doses in India, it isn’t clear if this requirement might be met from imports or from native manufacturing – and proper now each choices seem powerful.

Russia has administered fewer than 23 million doses of Sputnik V in its personal inhabitants. And as of Could 12, Russia had produced solely 66 million doses of Sputnik V and had exported fewer than 30 million.

A Moscow based mostly biotech agency referred to as R-Pharm had deliberate to provide 10 million doses of Sputnik V each month – however by late March had not produced even 1,000,000 doses. As such, Russia appears stumped about scaling up manufacturing for the time being. And towards this context, it’s exhausting to see how India can get 156 million doses by December 2021.

Organic Evans’ vaccine candidate

The Centre expects 300 million doses of a two-dose vaccine candidate to be manufactured by Organic Evans in India. This protein-based vaccine makes use of an antigen developed by the Texas Youngsters’s Hospital Middle for Vaccine Improvement.

On April 24, Organic Evans obtained permission to begin a 1,268-participant part three medical trial in India, as half of a bigger, world research. The corporate has additionally mentioned it’ll apply for emergency use authorisation based mostly on authorities recommendation and directives. Will the Indian regulator grant its approval with out outcomes from the worldwide trials? From the general public healthcare viewpoint, it mustn’t.

Anyway, Organic Evans plans to provide 75-80 million doses a month from August 2021, so capability shouldn’t be a problem.

Zydus Cadila’s vaccine candidate

The Centre’s plan consists of 50 million vaccine doses of a three-dose DNA vaccine candidate being developed by Zydus Cadila. This firm started recruiting contributors for the part three trials round January 20, 2021.

The corporate plans to submit interim information to hunt ’emergency use’ approval this month and to begin supplying vaccine doses from June, with an supposed manufacturing of 20 million doses per thirty days.

A fortnight earlier, Zydus Cadila managing director Sharvil Patel had mentioned that the corporate would produce 10 million doses at an in-house facility and contracted producers would produce the remaining 10 million; the corporate is already in talks with them.

Of all of the vaccine candidates within the plan, this one seems probably the most doable, not less than based mostly on the out there data. Notice, nevertheless, that the portions in play are comparatively small.

Gennova’s vaccine candidate

Pune-based Gennova Biopharma and Seattle-based HDT Bio are collectively growing an mRNA vaccine candidate. And the Centre plans to have 60 million doses of this shot by the top of this yr. Gennova commenced part 1 and a pair of trials this month, after a delay of six months. It already has the capability to provide 200 million doses a yr, and which it plans to extend to a billion.

The larger query with this product is that if the Indian regulator will approve it sans part three trial information.


In sum, of the 1.three billion doses of Covishield and Covaxin that the Centre expects by December, it’s extra more likely to obtain 750 million between August and December – though even this might be difficult. The Centre can also be unlikely to have 200 million doses of Novavax’s Covavax and much fewer than 156 million doses of Sputnik V.

The remaining 510 million doses are anticipated to be made up of 4 vaccines which can be nonetheless present process trials, some nonetheless in phases 1 and a pair of. Three of them are being developed along with overseas corporations and/or establishments, and the information from their trials overseas isn’t out there but. On this context, there’s a threat of the Indian regulator approving these vaccines with out enough efficacy and security information, underneath stress from the Centre to expedite provide.

In fact, it’s a reduction to seek out the India authorities exiting its inertia and making some efforts to throw mild on its vaccine technique. The plan it has give you nevertheless doesn’t bear the stamp of cautious thought, meticulous planning and in-depth analysis of capacities. This mentioned, its announcement might purchase the Centre some respite from the flak it has been receiving constantly for India’s vaccine scarcity.

Or was this the aim anyway?

The writer has no affiliations for the time being with, nor has she labored prior to now for, any of the businesses named on this article. All statements about vaccines on this article are based mostly on present data within the public area, to one of the best of her data.

Neeta Sanghi has over three many years’ expertise in managing pharmaceutical provide chains. She is at present engaged on a ebook concerning the business.

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