Envoys of 64 countries on Wednesday visited the facilities of Bharat Biotech and Biological E, which are developing vaccines for coronavirus.
After landing in Hyderabad by a special Air India flight, the Ambassadors and High Commissioners from the countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, and Oceania reached Genome Valley on the city outskirts to visit the two companies.
The visit by the heads of foreign missions was organised by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and was part of India’s efforts to develop partnerships for the manufacture and delivery of vaccines.
Last month, the diplomats were briefed on trials of vaccines underway in the country and efforts to manufacture and deliver the doses.
Officials said the diplomats were divided into two batches and they went around the two companies to see for themselves the facilities developed for research and manufacturing of vaccines.
Top officials of both the companies briefed the envoys about the progress made so far in the development of the vaccines and the rollout plans by both the companies after their vaccines get the approval from regulators.
At Bharat Biotech, the delegation was briefed about company’s vaccine development programme by Dr. Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, spearheading Covaxin research, development, clinical trials and production teams.
The delegates were explained about Bharat Biotech’s research process, manufacturing capabilities, expertise through virtual and physical tours of the facilities.
The envoys voiced their appreciation of the company’s work of national and global public health significance.
Covaxin, India’s indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, is developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) – National Institute of Virology (NIV). This indigenous, inactivated vaccine is developed and manufactured in Bharat Biotech’s BSL-3 (Bio-Safety Level 3) bio-containment facility.
Covaxin is a highly purified and inactivated 2 dose SARS-CoV2 vaccine, manufactured in a vero cell manufacturing platform with an excellent safety track record of more than 300 million doses.
According to Bharat Biotech, Covaxin has been evaluated in approximately 1000 subjects in Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials, with promising safety and immunogenicity results.
The Phase 3 human clinical trials of the vaccine began in November, involving 26,000 volunteers across India. This is India’s first and only Phase 3 efficacy study for a Covid-19 vaccine, and the largest phase 3 efficacy trial ever conducted for any vaccine in India.
“The development and clinical evaluation of COVAXIN marks a significant milestone for novel vaccinology in India. Covaxin has garnered interest from several countries worldwide for supplies and introduction,” said Suchitra Ella, Joint Managing Director of Bharat Biotech while addressing the foreign envoys.
Biological E last month initiated clinical trial of its Covid-19 subunit vaccine candidate in India following approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI).
It is making the vaccine in collaboration with Dynavax Technologies Corporation (Dynavax), a US-based vaccine focused biopharmaceutical company, and Baylor College of Medicine, a health sciences university in Houston.
Telangana Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar also addressed the diplomats and showcased the potential of the state. He said though being the youngest state in the country, Teangana achieved tremendous progress under the dynamic leadership of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.
He also informed that the combined value of the pharma sector in the state is around $50 billion. Hyderabad is the vaccine hub of not only India but the entire world with 33 percent of the entire vaccine production being done in Hyderabad.
During the last six years, the state has been a front ranker in the ease of doing business in the country. The state is home to some of the top valued companies such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft etc. Most of these companies have their largest establishments outside the US in Hyderabad.
The Chief Secretary told the diplomats that the state has formulated a new TSiPASS policy for speedy approvals to the industries. Industries who do not get permission within 15 days are deemed to have been approved. This policy has proved to be a game changer and during the last six years around 14,000 units have been grounded in the state.
Principal Secretary Industries and IT, Jayesh Ranjan, also made a power point presentation and showcased the investment potential of the state to the visiting dignitaries. He said that Hyderabad Pharma city will be operational in a couple of months. Similarly a medical devices park is being set up near Outer Ring Road in 500 acres.
The government has marked 30 crore Indians for the large-scale immunisation of Covid-19 vaccine after it gets the necessary approval, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed in a press briefing on Tuesday.
The ministry said that the national expert group on vaccine administration has recommended 30 crore Indians to receive the vaccine shots first. The figures include 1 crore healthcare workers, 2 crore frontline workers and 27 crore general population falling in priority groups set by the expert group.
“One crore healthcare providers and workers in the healthcare settings, both government and private, 2 crore personnel from state and Central police departments, armed forces, home guard and civil defence organisations, including disaster management volunteers and municipal workers, and 27 crore persons above the age of 50 years and people below 50 years with associated comorbidities are recommended by the national expert group on vaccine administration to be vaccinated on priority,” said Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan.
Bhushan said that the Centre is carrying preparatory activities for the roll-out of Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with all the states and Union Territories.
“The governments at the Centre and states and Uts have started preparing the line-listing of prioritised population groups for vaccination, augmentation of cold-chain infrastructure for storage of vaccine vials, and roping additional vaccinators for smooth execution of Covid-19 immunisation,” he added.
Bhushan also informed that the present cold-chain system to store the vaccines consists of 85,634 equipment at about 28,947 cold-chain points across the country. “The current cold-chain system is capable of storing additional quantities of Covid-19 vaccine required for the first 3 crore healthcare workers and frontline workers,” he added.
Meanwhile, the ministry informed that the country has around 2.39 lakh vaccinators consisting of auxiliary nurses and midwives (ANM) who already provide their services for 13 kinds of vaccine drives under Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).
“However, we would use only 1.54 lakh ANMs for Covid vaccination so that other vaccination programmes do not get hamper,” Bhushan informed.