Proposed upgrades at the plants in Chennai and Coonoor come four years after the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) suspended licenses at three production units. The actions led to shortages of some vaccines and the government is now upgrading to boost capacity.
“Approval has been obtained for upgradation of DPT group of vaccine manufacturing facilities at Coonoor with an estimated cost of Rs 137 crore ($26m) plus project management consultancy fees”, Indian health minister Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
Azad revealed the DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) plant details in reply to questioning in parliament about the compliance of Indian vaccine production facilities with cGMPs (current good manufacturing practices).
Suspension of licenses at vaccine plants in Chennai, Coonoor, and Kasauli in 2008 led to the shortage of some products and sparked outcry in India. Azad overturned the suspension and is now investing in the plants.
Upgrades costing Rs 58 crore are planned to revive a bacillus calmette-guérin (BCG) vaccine plant in Chennai. The site was also hit by the DCGI in 2008 and, although Azad said a vaccine shortage was averted, the Indian government still wants to boost its output.
Work at the third plant targeted by the DCGI, DPT vaccine production facilities in Kasauli, is nearing completion, Azad said. Last month Rediff reported that HLL, a company best known for producing condoms, was handling the upgrades at all three manufacturing facilities.
L C Goyal, additional secretary, Ministry of Health, said: "We faced a shortage of vaccines when these plants got shut and hence realised the importance of expanding our capacities in vaccine manufacturing. HLL was chosen to revamp these facilities.”