India / Facts are twisted, misinterpreted: Govt clarifies use of Newborn Calf Serum for COVAXIN

Zoom News : Jun 16, 2021, 03:59 PM
New Delhi: Does Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, contain serum of the newborn calf? As an RTI document shared by Congress's Gaurav Pandhi has gone viral, the government dismissed such "twisted and misrepresented" facts. Calf serum is involved in the process of developing the vaccine but the finished product does not contain calf serum, the government claimed, adding that this is the standard process of preparing Vero cells and a similar procedure is used across the world. This is also the process used for decades in Polio, Rabies and Influenza vaccines.

"Newborn calf serum is used only for preparation/ growth of Vero cells. Different kinds of bovine and other animal serum are standard enrichment ingredient used globally for Vero cell growth. Vero cells are used to establish cell lives which help in the production of vaccines. This technique has been used for decades in Polio, Rabies, and Influenza vaccines," the government said.

After the growth, these Vero cells are washed with water and buffer. And the washing process gets repeated multiple times which effectively remove calf serum from the vero cells. Then these cells are infected with Coronavirus for the development of the vaccine.

During the time of the growth of the virus, the Vero cells are completely destroyed and then the virus is killed and purified. From that inactivated virus, the vaccine is developed. "Hence, the final vaccine does not contain newborn calf serum at all and the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine product," the government clarified.

What was the necessity of the clarification?

Congress's Gaurav Pandhi on Tuesday shared an RTI document which answers a question — Does the process of making Covaxin involve FBS (fetal bovine serum). The reply said, "As per information provided by the firm, newborn calf serum is used in revival process of Vero cells which is used for the production of the Coronavirus during the manufacturing of Covaxin bulk vaccine.

Terming it heinous, Pandhi wrote, "In an RTI response, the Modi Govt has admitted that COVAXIN consists Newborn Calf Serum .....which is a portion of clotted blood obtained from less than 20 days young cow-calves, after slaughtering them. THIS IS HEINOUS! This information should have been made public before."

Why Covaxin uses calf serum and not Covishield

Covaxin is developed from a live, inactivated Coronavirus. Oxford vaccine, Covishield, on the other hand, used a chimpanzee common cold viral vector, which delivers the code that allows our cells to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

What does Bharat Biotech say?

Bharat Biotech too has issued a statement and clarified that this practice is neither new nor hidden. “Newborn calf serum is used in the manufacturing of viral vaccines. It is used for the growth of cells, but neither used in the 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.”

Listing out the name of the publication, the company said, "The usage of new born calf serum was transparently documented in the following publications since the last 9 months."