Bharat Biotech in a reply to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has said that, "The newborn calf serum is used in the revival process of Vero cells, which is further used for the production of coronavirus during the manufacturing of Covaxin." This information was received by Vikas Patni after filing RTI.
According to the reports, it is a standard practise to use newborn calf serum in the making of all viral vaccines. A senior industry official speaking to a news portal said that, "The vaccine will not have the presence of any calf sera. In other words, it is not used to make vaccines, but as an agent to grow the cell. After that, cell is purified and a virus is introduced into that cell. This is where the virus multiplies, it is harvested and killed. A similar process happens in polio vaccine manufacturing too. It is used by all viral vaccine manufacturers in India."
Another study shared along with the RTI query suggests serum is derived from healthy and slaughtered bovine calves. The study says, "Newborn calf serum is the liquid fraction of clotted blood derived from healthy, slaughtered bovine calves aged less than 20 days, deemed fit for human consumption via ante or post-mortem inspection." This was explained in a research paper 'A Method for Differentiating Fetal Bovine Serum from Newborn Calf Serum,' written by Michelle Cheever, Alyssa Master, and Rosemary Versteegen, in Bioprocessing Journal.
Covaxin, a vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, is a "inactivated vaccine" meaning the pathogen (virus) has been deactivated and can no longer cause infection. Some elements of the virus that induce reactions in our bodies can still be identified by our bodies. To produce vaccines, Vero cells are developed by experts in the lab and exposed to the Covid-19 virus in bioreactors. After harvesting the virus, it is inactivated after 36 hours and mixed with adjuvants that boost the immune system. This adjuvant identifies RNA from viruses.
After this news has come out, netizens are asking various question like the companies extract serum by killing calf, etc.
Patni asked if there is any compensation for someone who has an adverse reaction and died due to vaccination. The CDSCO replied saying there is no provision under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules for providing compensation due to side-effects, disability and deaths after approval of vaccines.