India’s Cadila Healthcare is aiming to triple monthly production of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to as many as 3 crore doses, its managing director said on Monday, as the country battles a massive wave of infections.
The virus has killed nearly one lakh Indians in May alone, according to official figures, although experts say actual numbers are likely many times higher. India’s COVID-19 death toll surged past three lakh on Monday, health ministry data showed.
India is also facing a shortage of vaccines. Weekly vaccinations have fallen from a peak of nearly 2.5 crore doses in early April to about 90 lakhs. The government has pledged to make 267 crore doses available this year.
Cadila, headquartered in Ahmedabad in western India, is looking to increase monthly production of its vaccine candidate ZyCoV-D to up to 3 crore doses in four to five months, from 1 crore now, its managing director, Sharvil Patel, said in text messages to Reuters.
“We still think we should be able to submit (the vaccine for emergency use authorization) in May,” Patel said on Monday.
The company will use both in-house capacities as well as third-party manufacturers to boost production, he said.
ZyCoV-D is a DNA plasmid vaccine, which uses a portion of the genetic code – DNA or RNA – in the virus to stimulate an immune response.
It is undergoing late-stage trials in nearly 30,000 adults after being found safe and immunogenic in earlier studies. It is meant to be given in three doses, but Cadila is also doing trials on a two-dose regimen, Patel has said previously.