Wockhardt says in talks with COVID-19 vaccine makers

Mumbai-based pharmaceuticals manufacturer Wockhardt officially confirmed that it is indeed in negotiations with multiple companies to explore the option of manufacturing their COVID-19 vaccines.

The confirmation comes in the wake of recent media reports quoting government sources that the company had suggested to the government that it can divert some of its manufacturing capacities for producing COVID-19 vaccines.

“The Company is in the process of negotiating manufacturing options for Covid-19 vaccine with global vaccine developers as part of its normal pharmaceutical business. Since such agreements needs technological evaluations, the Company is presently doing the same. It is also pertinent to note that such technical / commercial evaluations are meant to address the impact of global pandemic owing to Covid-19 and to the best interest of human race,” Wockhardt said in a regulatory filing today.

Wockhardt did not specify the names of vaccine manufacturers that it was in talks with.

On May 25, Indian Express had reported that the company had expressed a willingness to produce as much as 2 billion (200 cr) doses of third-party COVID-19 vaccines, starting with a capacity of 500 mn vaccines by February next year. The company’s share price rose from around Rs 515 at the beginning of May to a peak of Rs 79 on Wednesday. Currently, they are trading in the range of Rs 666, and are up slightly today.

The Indian Express report said: “It is also in the process of “accessing” some of the technology to make Covid-19 vaccines. It has told the government it has the manufacturing and research capability to create a diversified portfolio that would allow it to produce and supply mRNA, protein-based and viral vector-based vaccines.”

In its latest update, Wockhardt clarified that it has not reached any conclusion as far as such negotiations with vaccines makers are concerned, and therefore has not informed investors of the same.

“Since the relevant agreements are not yet fully finalised, the same has not been informed,” it said, adding that it is too early to talk about the financial impact of any such tie-up on the company.

India is facing a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines as the country had seen an unexpectedly mild first wave of COVID-19 in 2020. This had led to complacency, both among the policymakers as well as the normal public. While the public showed little interest in vaccines when they started becoming available in early 2021, the government too did not place any large orders for the same, assuming that there will not be much demand for vaccines among the Indian public.

However, the second wave of the pandemic — which wreaked havoc across the country in April and May — has led sea change in the public’s attitude towards vaccination, and has led a sudden demand for the same.

The government too has woken up to the need for vaccination. However, with most of the existing vaccine-making capacities already committed to those who booked early, India is having to look towards non-traditional manufacturers of vaccines to meet its demand.

Besides private companies, the government is also exploring ways of resuscitating dormant public sector vaccine manufacturing units.