COVAXIN is not made from calf serum, is part of the manufacturing process – MoHFW and Bharat Biotech clarify

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The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Bharat Biotech have clarified that the COVAXIN COVID-19 vaccine is not made of calf serum. Information on the indigenous vaccine comes from a Right to Know (RTI) petition filed in April. The petition opened a box of metaphorical worms for the drug company that made the vaccine. He is also accused by some on social networks of having hidden this information from the public. Bharat Biotech and the Ministry of Health have denied these accusations.

While the use of calf serum is not surprising to professionals in the vaccine industry, it has been somewhat surprising to the general public.

Bharat Biotech has been accused of using bovine products in its vaccines and not making it known to the public. Image credit: Bharat Biotech

RTI advocacy

In an RTI petition submitted on April 15, 2021 to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), Vikas Patni asked 12 questions for answers on topics ranging from vaccine content, expiration date and side effects, laws restricting travel and government. compensate people who have unwanted effects, etc. Among these questions, Patni asked if fetal bovine serum (FSB) was used in any form in the manufacture of any of the vaccines.

CDSCO has answered all of these questions. For the use of FBS in the vaccine, the answer was – “According to new information provided by the company, newborn calf serum is used in the regeneration process of Vero cells which is used for the production of the Corona virus. during the manufacture of COVAXIN bulk vaccine from M / s Bharat Biotech. “

Difference between fetal calf serum and newborn calf serum

One aspect of the debate is the use of fetal calf serum (FSB) and newborn calf serum (NBCS). Patni asked if FSB was used when in reality NBCS was used in the process. There is a clear difference between these two serums.

Fetal bovine serum (FS) is collected from blood collected from a bovine fetus at a slaughterhouse. It is widely used for vaccine production because it has a very low level of antibodies and contains more growth factors.

Newborn Calf Serum (NBCS) comes from a calf that is three to ten days old. This serum is of a superior quality and is a cost effective replacement for FBS. It also has a higher proportion of protein and immunoglobulins, but less growth factors.

Congress tweets

Before the agencies involved in producing the vaccine responded to the claims, Gaurav Pandhi, the Congress Party’s national coordinator for its digital communications and social media, tweeted. He said the vaccine consists of NBCS, which is “part of the clotted blood” of a slaughtered calf. He also shared a screenshot of a document showing the difference between fetal bovine serum (FBS) and newborn calf serum (NBCS).

In another tweet, Pandhi posted a video of himself berating the government for not providing enough vaccines and then for betraying people’s faith. He said people have the right to know if calf serum is used in the vaccine.

However, he also insisted that people should get vaccinated keeping religion and faith aside because they are a lifeline.

The Ministry of Health responds

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has come out in favor of the indigenous vaccine. He said there was no calf serum in the vaccine itself and that it was just a product used in the manufacture of the vaccine.

“The final vaccine (COVAXIN) contains no newborn calf serum at all and calf serum is not an ingredient in the final vaccine product,” according to the Union Health Ministry. noted.

In an effort to dispel confusion and stop the spread of misinformation, the MoHFW said NBCS is only used in preparing Vero cells for the vaccine. He also said that the use of sera from cattle and other animals is common and has been prevalent in the production of many vaccines against other diseases such as polio, rabies and influenza.

When scientists started growing viruses in the lab, they had to recreate the same conditions found in a human body. They used solutions of sugars, salts and various meat extracts to make this possible. They started using Vero cells (which are kidney cells taken from the African green monkey; a technique developed in 1962). Vero cells are used as a vector to cultivate genetically modified viruses. Since viruses cannot live without a host, these cells help them to grow.

These cells are washed several times with water and chemicals to get rid of NBCS. They are then used to develop the vaccine. During this process, Vero cells are also destroyed when the virus is injected into them.

Later, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is also killed (deactivated) and purified, so there is no risk of infection for a vaccinated person.

Bharat Biotech responds

In a statement, Bharat Biotech responded to the charges in an attempt to clarify that the vaccine itself does not contain the serum. He said NBCS is used in the manufacture of vaccines around the world. However, they are not present in vaccines administered to humans.

“It is used for cell growth, but is not used in the growth of the SARS-CoV2 virus or in the final formulation. COVAXIN® is highly purified to contain only the components of the inactivated virus removing all others. impurities. “

He also said that the use of NBCS has been documented in all of his studies.



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