NEW DELHI: In the part two of an extensive interview with The New Indian’s Executive Editor, Dr Krishna Ella of Bharat Biotech speaks on the vaccine efficacy and shares his plans of ramping up the production to produce 1 to 1.5 cr more vaccine doses to meet the annual target of 100 cr. EXCLUSIVE: PART 1 – Hurt By Bullying On COVAXIN Just Because PM Took It; We’re Just Scientists, Undeterred By Attack, Bringing India’s Nasal Vax Now: Bharat Biotech MD
Rohan Dua: Do you think the travel restrictions have impacted the choice of vaccination among Indians? From what we have observed, a lot of people chose Covaxin over the others for the safety net it offered.
Dr Ella: I think people chose their vaccine after much deliberation. They looked at the safety of the profile of the vaccine, especially after reports regarding the side-effects of various vaccines emerged – including clots, heart attacks and even big brain hemorrhage in some cases. Social media also played a part in the process. But, it was largely about the efficacy of Covaxin. It emerged as the safest vaccine. It even offers 65% efficacy with respect to the Delta variant. Here, let me make it clear that had we conducted our core action during the first wave, we would have got 85% efficacy. Since the second wave was about the Delta variant, the efficacy dropped from probably what was anticipated to 65%. It is unfortunate to note that people lacking in understanding on how clinical research is conducted or a vaccine is developed, are going all out to comment. That should not be the case.
Rohan Dua: There have been conflicting reports on the efficacy of Covaxin. The one from BHU says that a single shot of Covaxin is good enough for those who have recovered from Covid and then, there is another one from the UK which lists several errors over the efficacy. How do you trust the efficacy reports from across the globe?
Across the globe, the trend of heterologous shifting of the vaccine is emerging. And, it appears to be working well. Scientifically, one could go for a coaxial first dose and follow it up with a live vaccine for an effective result.
Rohan Dua: Now that we have touched the 100cr vaccination mark, do we have a ballpark figure on what was Covaxin’s contribution in terms of shots or overall number of shots that we may have touched?
Dr Ella: By October 30, we would have supplied 30 cr doses to the government. So far, we have supplied around 19 or 20 cr doses. Having said that, every month we are increasing supply by one 1.5 cr doses. As I mentioned before, it is a very complex technology and we can make up to 20 cr doses per month. Considering that this is an inactivated vaccine, I think we have done a great job. World over, I doubt there is anyone making 8 cr doses a month. The real magic would be when we launch our nasal vaccine. Because if I gave one dose of Covaxin and one dose of nasal, given our production capacity, it would complement well. Needless to say, the capacity would also double or even triple for that matter.
Rohan Dua: Both you and your wife have brought success to India. How did you bust your stress and anxieties?
Do remember, we don’t make Covaxin alone. As shared earlier, I want India to succeed. I want your children, my children and everybody’s children to stay back in India. For that, the onus is on the kind of eco-system that we create. Whether it is the media or a startup company, as a scientist, and as the regulator’s whoever it is, we need to create a clean and healthy ecosystem that encourages startups and homegrown ventures. Just so our children, future generations, will want to stay back in India and not run to US or Europe for higher studies or for a job.
On that note, I would like to thank the naysayers from the bottom of my heart as well as everyone who helped us in our achievement. Because, by offering their support, directly or indirectly, they have not only helped me but also the future of this country. I just hope people can and continue to separate science from politics. Only then can we achieve great heights.