Reports on serum from calves used for Covaxin incorrect, says Govt

Covaxin does not contain newborn calf serum at all and the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine

By   |  Business Bureau  |  Published: 16th Jun 2021  2:38 pm

Hyderabad: The Government of India issued a clarification on reports claiming that serum from newborn calves was being used for Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. In an official statement, the Centre said that facts had been ‘twisted and misrepresented’.

“Newborn Calf Serum is used only for preparation/ growth of vero cells. Different kinds of bovine and other animal serum are standard enrichment ingredients used globally for vero cell growth. Vero cells are used to establish cell lives which help in production of vaccines. This technique has been used for decades in Polio, Rabies, and Influenza vaccines,” Government of India said.

These vero cells, after the growth, are washed with water, with chemicals, many times to make it free from the newborn calf serum. Thereafter, these vero cells are infected with coronavirus for viral growth. The vero cells are completely destroyed in the process of viral growth. Thereafter this grown virus is also killed (inactivated) and purified. This killed virus is then used to make the final vaccine, and in the final vaccine formulation no calf serum is used, the government explained in its statement.

Hence, the final vaccine (Covaxin) does not contain newborn calf serum at all and the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine product, the Centre clarified.

Bharat Biotech in its statement said, “Newborn calf serum is used in the manufacturing of viral vaccines. It is used for the growth of cells, but neither used in growth of SARS CoV2 virus nor in the final formulation. Covaxin is highly purified to contain only the inactivated virus components by removing all other impurities.”

Bovine serum has been widely used in the manufacture of vaccines globally for several decades. The usage of newborn calf serum was transparently documented in the publications since the last nine months, the company added.

Earlier this week, Congress party’s Gaurav Pandhi claimed that the government had admitted to using newborn calf serum for Covaxin, alleging that young calves were being slaughtered for the vaccine, in response to an RTI filed by applicant Vikas Patni.


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