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'Newborn Calf Serum Used to Make Covaxin': Bharat Biotech, Centre Explain After Cong's 'Slaughter' Charge

File photo of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

File photo of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

The newborn calf serum is used for the growth of cells, but neither used in growth of SARS CoV2 virus nor in the final formulation, Covaxin manufacturers Bharat Biotech clarified.

The Centre on Wednesday issued a clarification on Covaxin after an RTI response posted on Twitter by Congress spokesperson said that the jab uses bovine blood.

“There have been some social media posts regarding composition of the COVAXIN vaccine where it has been suggested that Covaxin vaccine contains the newborn calf serum. Facts have been twisted and misrepresented in these posts," read the Centre’s statement.

“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," said the tweet by Congress spokesperson, Gaurav Padhi.

“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 production of vaccines. This technique has been used for decades in Polio, Rabies, and Influenza vaccines," said the Centre in response.

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These vero cells, after the growth, are washed with water, with chemicals (also technically known as buffer), many times to make it free from the newborn calf serum. Thereafter, these vero cells are infected with corona virus 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, according to the statement.

Manufacturer Bharat Biotech also issued a statement stating, “New born 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 is widely used in the manufacture of vaccines globally for several decades. The usage of new born calf serum was transparently documented since the last 9 months," it clarified.

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first published:June 16, 2021, 14:07 IST