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Fact-Check: No newborn calf serum in vial of Covaxin

Reiterating that facts have been twisted and misrepresented in the social media posts, the Centre clarified that Covaxin does not contain newborn calf serum at all and the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine product.

Fact-Check No newborn calf serum in vial of Covaxin-VPN
New Delhi, First Published Jun 16, 2021, 1:48 PM IST
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The Narendra Modi government on Wednesday came out with a clarification on reports which suggested that newborn calf serum is being used to make Bharat Biotech's Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin.

The reports citing an RTI response from the Central Drug Standard Control Organisation stated that newborn calf serum is used in the revival process of Vero cells used for the production of Coronavirus during the bulk manufacturing of Covaxin.

Screenshots of the RTI response were widely circulated on social media. Congress social media national coordinator Gaurav Pandhi claimed that the government had betrayed the faith and belief of people by hiding the fact that a portion of clotted blood is "obtained from less than 20-day old cow-calves after slaughtering them."

With the claim going viral, the government was forced to break its silence on the matter on Wednesday. The Centre reiterated that facts had been twisted and misrepresented in the social media posts.

The Centre clarified that the calf serum is not an ingredient of the final vaccine product.



"Globally, different types of bovine and other animal serum are used as standard enrichment ingredient for Vero cell growth. Vero cells help establish cell lives which help in the production of vaccines. This technique has been in use for decades in Influenza, Rabies and Polio vaccines," a government statement said.

Vero cells are a lineage of cells used to grow cells in controlled conditions.

"These Vero cells, after the growth, are treated many times to make it free from the newborn calf serum. Thereafter, these Vero cells are infected with Coronavirus for viral growth," the statement added.

"The Vero cells are totally 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."

In another statement, Covaxin maker Bharat Biotech said, "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 the SARS CoV2 virus nor in the final formulation. Covaxin is highly purified to contain only inactivated virus components by removing other impurities."

"Bovine serum has been widely in use globally to manufacture vaccines for several decades. The usage of newborn calf serum was transparently documented in several publications including Hamster Efficacy Study over the last nine months," the statement added. 

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