'Can deliver vaccine for S African strain in 15 days'

Can deliver Covid-19 vaccine for South African strain in 15 days, says Bharat Biotech CMD

He said that if ICMR provided them with the strain, the company could deliver a vaccine for the strain within 15 days

A dose of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine called Covaxin. Credit: Reuters File Photo

Bharat Biotech's CMD Dr Krishna Ella said that his company is capable of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine product for the South African variation in 15 days if ICMR provides them with the strain.

Dr Ella was speaking in a panel discussion - “Immunizing the World”, at Bio-Asia 2021 virtual conference that began on Monday.

Also Read | 17 states and UTs witness sparse use of Covaxin

The annual summit of biotech, pharma and healthcare sector industries is taking place in the wake of the global pandemic and amid growing fears of new variant strains of Covid-19.

After the more infectious UK strain, the South African and Brazil mutations have now become a cause for concern.

“Mutations are the way viruses survive, and RNA viruses especially are expected to mutate. As a manufacturer, with ICMR’s coordination, we can make a product for the South African strain in about 15 days. I just have to plug it in and the process would be the same. That will be the fastest one can plug in a full vaccine strategy. We are gearing up in that direction,” Ella said while commenting on the biopharma firm's preparedness in dealing with new SARS-CoV-2 mutations.

Also Read | No efficacy data of India’s Covid-19 vaccines against South Africa, Brazil variants: Scientists

The Hyderabad based biotech firm last year, developed BBV152 or Covaxin in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Virology. The indigenously developed inactivated, two-dose SARS-CoV2 vaccine is part of the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination programme in the country. Covaxin was given emergency use authorisation by the drug authorities even as it was in Phase-3 trials.

Speaking on the same topic of mutant strains, Mahima Datla, MD, Biological E, said, “I think we should not be overly concerned. We are working on the South Africa variant. But the virus is going to attach itself to the human cells. Eventually, we do not know what kinds of mutants will take over. So it is prudent to work on technology.”

Also Read | You'll soon be able to choose between Covaxin and Covishield in Tamil Nadu: Report

Ending the session, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization, stressed the need of “solidarity, global collaboration and unity,” to rightly address the pandemic challenge.

“It cannot be country-by-country basis. We need excellent communication which is 100 percent transparent. And having a dialogue is necessary – vaccine hesitancy is because of a lack of dialogue. We are nowhere near a herd immunity, so for the next of 2021, we need to stick to the laid down health precautions”.

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