COVID-19 + Vaccine = Covaxin: A look into Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Illustrated by: Sophie Laye

Bharat Biotech, a successful biotech company founded by Dr. Krishna M. Ella in Hyderabad, India, has been making positive changes globally through its practice of creating innovative vaccines and therapeutics [3]. The leading biotech company holds an impressive portfolio of 15 vaccines, including rotavirus, hepatitis B, and Zika virus, five therapeutics including SLVRGEN, BIOGIT, Regen-D 150, Regen-D 60 and Zelect, is the first company in the world to file a global patient for the Zika vaccine and is the largest rabies shot producer [3]. The company also owns 145 patents for many life-saving vaccines and therapeutics and has partnerships with many institutions including Stanford University School of Medicine, Center for Vaccine Development, Centres for Disease Control & Prevention, and the National Institute of Health, to name a few [6]

The company’s recent focus has been on the Covaxin vaccine, India’s first indigineous COVID-19 vaccine [1]. This COVID-19 vaccine has been developed alongside the Indian Council of Medical Research and National Institute of Virology. The vaccine is also India’s first and largest phase 3 efficacy trial with over 25,800 participants included [1]. Based on this trial, the vaccine displays high efficacy of 93.4% against serious cases of COVID-19 and 77.8% efficacy in mild, moderate and severe cases of COVID-19 [4]. Covaxin is unique because it contains a SARS-CoV-2 viral particle that is essentially RNA surrounded by a protein shell, but modified so that it will not be able to replicate, thus making it to be incapable of infecting recipients while strengthening the immune system in case of infection [1] [8]. The Covaxin vaccine is also prone to generating T cell responses, which allows for longevity and a display of rapid antibody responses for future infections [7]. This makes it highly effective because T cells are able to kill virus infected cells. Just like other vaccines, Covaxin is given in two doses with a recommendation to be taken with a 28 day wingspan. 

Each dose of Covaxin costs about 295 rupees, which is approximately four dollars [8]. However, the biotech company values offering affordable and effective healthcare solutions and has given the Indian government 1.65 million doses at no cost for distribution [8]. As of now, the company has produced 20 million doses of Covaxin for India and has a projection of 700 million doses by the end of the year [8]. With its success so far, the vaccine has been approved for emergency use in 15 countries, including Mexico, Botswana, Iran, and Zimbabwe [4]. In addition to this, Bharat Biotech has signed a deal with Ocugen, a US based biopharmaceutical company, to be able to produce and start an initiative to bring Covaxin to the US and Canada markets [7]. Due to circumstances, the vaccine has already been in use in India under restricted authorization use due to the extreme outbreak of cases occurring in India. This means that it can be used in an emergency situation like in India as it awaits approval for use around the globe since it’s relatively new . In the near future, Ocugen plans on applying for a Biologics License Application for the vaccine in the US and Canada. In addition to its partnership with Ocugen, Bharat Biotech has also been working in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine here in St. Louis. The company has jointly obtained rights for the vaccine alongside the biotech startup Precision Virologics in hopes of rapid clinical development for a COVID-19 vaccine [7]

Through an emergency approval process, the Covaxin vaccine was validated before phase III of the trials were completed. The next step is for Covaxin to obtain emergency use authorization (EUA) so that it can be used and accepted in other countries. In order to do so, the vaccine must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) [2]. The purpose of the WHO’s intervention is for the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) to aid in assessing the quality, safety, and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. This will allow for other countries to continue with their own approval process for administering the vaccine [9]. As of right now, it is projected that the WHO will grant full approval of the vaccine by the end of the month. It is important that Covaxin receives Emergency Use Authorization to ensure that students or travelers from India have no issues with vaccination status [5].

While it is still under the process, Covaxin has been displaying promising results with its global presence. These vaccine advances have been enabling not only vaccine research to advance but to aid in the progression towards normalcy and period of renewal.

Edited by: Darsh Singhania
Illustrated by: Sophie Laye

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