‘Have Made 16 Vaccines, Not Without Experience’: Bharat Biotech MD
Dr Krishna Ella was responding to questions raised on the approval of Covaxin, which is still under Phase 3 trials.
Strongly defending Covaxin's emergency use authorisation approval, Bharat Biotech founder Dr Krishna Ella on Monday, 4 January, said, "It's a vaccine. It's not a backup." He further rubbished the term, urging "people to be responsible before making such statements."
In a virtual press conference, an indignant Ella said that his firm is a “global company and not one without any vaccine experience,” after questions were raised by experts over the approval given to Covaxin, which is still under Phase 3 trials.
“We have manufactured 16 vaccines. We function globally, not just in India,” Krishna Ella told reporters.
The Bharat Biotech founder also revealed that the government was still “talking to the company,” indicating that no deal has been signed between the two over manufacturing vaccines.
How did Ella defend Covaxin?
The Bharat Biotech founder said that Covaxin was in "no way" inferior to Pfizer’s vaccine and that it was the only firm to have published five articles on the COVID-19 vaccine process.
"People are talking to backlash on Indian companies. That is not done for us. I don't know why Indian companies are targeted by everyone in the world," said Ella.
"We are not a company without experience in vaccines. We have tremendous experience in vaccines. We are touching 123 countries. We are the only company that has got such extensive experience and extensive publication in review journals," he added.
But, when will Phase 3 trial data be available?
Ella indicated that Phase 3 trial data will be available only in March 2021, at a time India will be well into the vaccination drive.
In that case, why did that drug regular green signal to Covaxin?
Citing the New Drugs and Clinical Trial Rules, 2019 for Emergency Use Authorisation, Ella said that if good pre-clinical data was available, the authorities have the power to provide licence for the product.
What’s his response to critics?
Blaming the media for criticism against Covaxin, Ella said: "In India, we do everything systematically and we get bashing from the news media. Some company has branded me as water. It hurts as a scientist and we don't deserve that.”
On vaccine getting political now, Ella added, "Now that vaccine is being politicised, I want to state very clearly that none of my family members are associated with any political party."
Has Bharat Biotech started manufacturing Covaxin?
Yes, Ella said that there are 20 million doses that the company has manufactured already. He also claimed that 24,000 people are vaccinated already and that his company will produce 700 million doses by end of 2021.
However, minutes later he said that he cannot specify the timeline for manufacturing.
Has the government procured Covaxin?
No. Ella revealed that the government was still “talking to the company,” indicating that no deal has been signed between the two over manufacturing vaccines.
Has Covaxin been tested on children?
Not yet. Children between 12-17 years of age will be included in the Phase 3 trials.
What will be the cost of a complete dose of covaxin?
“The cost depends on the size of volume. The price will be controlled by market. Initially, the price may be high but it will come down as more players enter the market,” Ella said.
Does Covaxin work on UK variant of coronavirus?
When asked this question, the Bharat Biotech MD said that he will get back to the media with data in a week.
When will Covaxin be available for rollout?
While Ella said that he was ready to rollout the vaccine “even tomorrow”, he did not respond to when the vaccine will actually be available.
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