Production capacity of major Indian vaccine makers reportedly ‘stressed’ as Covid-19 cases rise

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A beneficiary is vaccinated by health workers during a pan India Covid-19 vaccination campaign at the Aundh District Hospital on January 16, 2021 in Pune, India.

Pratham Gokhale | The Bharat Express News | Getty Images

India has reported more than 100,000 new cases of Covid-19 over a 24-hour period for the third time this week as the most populous country in South Asia continues its vaccination campaign.

There were 126,789 new cases reported Thursday, according to government data. More than 80% of those cases were from ten states, including the hard-hit western state of Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital Mumbai.

Since the start of April, India has reported more than 779,000 cases, with Maharashtra accounting for just over half of them.

Local authorities in Maharashtra have stepped up restrictions, including nighttime curfews where only essential services are allowed to remain open. Other states are also preemptively increasing restrictions as concerns grow about a potential shortage of hospital beds and doctors.

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Shortage of vaccines

India’s mass vaccination campaign, which began in January, has gained momentum in recent weeks. From April, anyone over 45 is eligible for their photos. Government data showed that as of Thursday, more than 90 million doses of the vaccine had been administered.

But, according to media reports this week, several states, including Maharashtra, have warned they are running out of vaccine stocks at a crucial time when cases are climbing rapidly.

In response, the Indian government accused some states, including Maharashtra, of deflecting attention from their inability to control the virus outbreak.

“Vaccine supplies are monitored in real time and state governments are regularly informed about this,” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Wednesday. “The vaccine shortage claims are baseless.”

Good distribution is necessary

India makes enough vaccines per month to vaccinate people over 45, according to Randeep Guleria, director of the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of the Indian government’s Covid-19 task force.

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“These vaccines are being made and there is enough stock on a monthly basis. It is a problem that they need to be distributed regularly to all regions and when states start to distribute they need to ensure distribution. fair based on demand, ”Guleria said Thursday on TBEN’s“ Street Signs Asia ”.

“In terms of real numbers, if you do the (math) the scarcity isn’t there, it’s the distribution that needs to be done in the right way,” he said.

Guleria added that the situation in Maharashtra as well as some other states is such that some areas have high vaccine uptake and in others there is hesitation and a vaccine stock lying around.

Serum Institute’s “ stressed ” production capacity

But the Serum Institute of India, which makes one of the country’s two approved vaccines – the AstraZeneca vaccine, known locally as Covishield – takes a different view.

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Serum Institute boss Adar Poonawalla told Indian media that the company’s production capacity was “very stressed.” He said the vaccine maker needed around $ 400 million to increase capacity by June.

He revealed to the Business Standard that AstraZeneca had sent Serum Institute a legal notice for delay in supplying vaccines abroad. In February, Poonawalla said his company had been tasked with prioritizing India’s vaccine needs and called on foreign governments to be patient.

Guleria said other manufacturers who make vaccines are being asked to participate and help speed up production. He added that India may soon approve a third vaccine – the Russian-made Sputnik V, which will be produced by pharmaceutical company Dr Reddy’s Laboratories.

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