India’s Best Chance with Covaxin

India’s best chance against its recent outbreak is to get other countries to produce Covaxin. Covaxin is India’s most effective vaccine vs. its new variant B.1.617.

The Indian Government is now actively exploring the possibility of producing Covaxin abroad. Its contact with Ocugen $OCGN means the U.S. could produce Covaxin and sell it back to India. Covaxin that has been jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), for production abroad through a technology transfer between commercial entities amid supply crunch, according to government officials aware of the development.

India needs to ramp up production of Covaxin and vaccinate its population as quickly as possible since already in 2021 at least one to two million lives will likely be lost (given that official data is very inaccurate).

Covaxin has EUAs in many countries such as Mexico, Philippines, Iran, Paraguay, Guatemala, Nicaragua and others and will ramp up efforts to get more. Companies like Ocugen will eventually supply to those countries and not just the U.S. This is due to the dire state of the pandemic in South America, South Asia and most likely Africa.

The article in the New York Times is one of the best explanations of Covaxin we have seen yet. It will maybe become the most important vaccine to fight the variants of concern of the pandemic in 2022. Bharat Biotech on April 20 announced it will scale up of manufacturing capacity to produce 700 million doses of Covaxin annually. But supply shortages are clearly impacting India, which is buckling under the weight of high community spread.

Covaxin recently came in for praise from the U.S.’ top pandemic expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, who said it “neutralises” 617 variants, according to PTI. Ocugen recently finished a $100 million dollar stock offering and needs to ramp up pressure on the U.S. to give an EUA so as to actively help out India and perhaps be a booster shot in the U.S. itself against variants of concern. It’s not clear how this is proceeding but the expectation was that June 2021 was the window month for approval.

In a statement issued on April 20, Bharat Biotech said it was exploring manufacturing partnerships with partners in other countries that have prior expertise with the commercial scale manufacture of inactivated viral vaccines under biosafety containment.

So far Ocugen in the U.S. appears to be the most advanced partner, but they need regulatory approval to begin. The $OCGN stock is doing very well, now consolidated at $12.75, suggesting investor confidence that India’s dire need will fast-track EUA approval.

Bharat Biotech says an EUA is pending in over 60 additional countries with 16 already achieved. While India faces a crisis of leadership over its handling of pandemic protocols, Covaxin affords it its best way out of the dire situation for 2022.

It will take months to vaccinate 1.4 billion people but Covaxin is the easiest vaccine to scale in the world (with the possible exception of Sputnik V). While foreign countries sending oxygen to India will help save lives, the vaccine still remains its best option to end the tragedy.

To date India has reported 215,000 deaths due to the pandemic, though likely real numbers are actually over a million. India’s lack of transparency with its own citizens is concerning, but Covaxin is its best chance to stem the impact of the virus.

While Ocugen is a good start, it needs several partners all over the world in countries that can facilitate a significant scale up of Covaxin. India’s situation is spilling over into neighboring regions such as Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

India needs to produce more Covaxin abroad to sell back to the Indian Government to deal effectively with the humanitarian crisis. This is the most pressing concern in the world today. Given the rapid acceleration of cases, the spread of B.1.617 is most likely to blame or at the least a significant factor to the crisis we see in India in the spring of 2021. Ocugen in the U.S. can likely play a pivotal role.

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