The central government has also fast-tracked emergency approvals for foreign-produced Covid-19 vaccines

While the country is witnessing the second wave of the deadly coronavirus disease, there is a silver lining as India is ramping up its vaccine production capacity day-by-day.

India has two fully functional Covid-19 vaccines, Bharat Biotech-ICMR manufactured COVAXIN, and Serum Institute of India (SII) produced COVISHIELD. The drug regulatory body has also approved the emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V in India.

Along with this, the central government has fast-tracked emergency approvals for foreign-produced Covid-19 vaccines that have been granted Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) in other countries to expand the basket of vaccines for domestic use and hasten the pace and coverage of vaccination.

India was doing exceedingly well in its vaccine production and is internationally recognized as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. As the second wave of Covid-19 made place, a shortage of vaccine was experienced in some states, prompting the country to ramp up the production capacity.

According to the Department of Biotechnology, the estimated manufacturing capacity of ‘Covishield' is 70-100 million doses per month, and the indigenously developed ‘Covaxin' has a planned production capacity of 150 million doses per year. It provided these figures in a statement to a parliamentary panel.

Serum Institute of India has also sought a grant of Rs 3000 crore in order to ramp up that capacity beyond 100 million, targeted for by the end of May. It has written to NITI Aayog for Rs 1000 crore out of the total Rs 3000 crore for a dedicated Covishield production unit.

Along with this, comes the news of Bharat Biotech also ramping up production of indigenous vaccine Covaxin, using its manufacturing setups at Hyderabad and Bengaluru. According to the officials quoted in The Print, the company plans to expand the overall vaccine manufacturing capacity up to seven times in its existing plant in Hyderabad. They further plan to grow the manufacturing capacity by five times once the Bengaluru plant starts manufacturing the vaccine by July.

Bharat Biotech is also conducting trials for its intranasal COVID-19 vaccine. The company's chairman Krishna Ella had earlier said that if the center can develop a protocol for all phases of clinical trials, the company can bring the vaccine to market by June 2021.

According to reports, Dr Reddy's Laboratories, which partnered with Russia's RIDF eight months ago, has a deal to distribute 100 million doses which it is to import, even as it sets up its own manufacturing for the vaccine. Sputnik V has shown an efficacy of 91.6 percent, as per a Lancet report.

Reassuring the step of approving Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use, former Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) VM Katoch, in an email interview with India News Network said, “Sputnik vaccine has already been used extensively. I am sure that our regulator will assess the relevant safety and efficacy issues. We have established procedures to monitor the phase IV of introduction in the community.”

Meanwhile, the center has signaled that four more vaccine manufacturers are in pipeline, including Johnson & Johnson's vaccine (with Biological E), Novovax (with SII, as mentioned above), Zydus Cadila's vaccine and an intranasal vaccine by Bharat Biotech, besides the approval of foreign vaccines.

There is a dire need for India to increase its vaccine production capacity amid active cases taking a toll. Over 2 lakh cases were reported in the last 24 hours, making the total active cases exceed the 14.7 lakh mark.

On an average, India is administering more than 4 million vaccine doses every day, with a total of 11, 44, 93, 238 doses administered till 8 am on April 15. And the number is expected to increase further till the country vaccinates the entire population, the timeline of which is still unknown.

Under its Vaccine Maitri initiative, India is also helping the foreign friendly nations by sending as grant or exporting millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines keeping in mind its own domestic needs.

Based on the fact that the existing manufactures are increasing their production, and the country has at least four other manufacturers ready to launch their vaccine, besides the other manufacturers who are still far from launching a vaccine, India can increase its production capacity multifold and retain the title of the world’s largest manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccine.