HLL Biotech Limited (HBL) is a 100% subsidiary of HLL Lifecare Limited, a Government of India (GOI) Enterprise under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
IVC came into existence further to the proposal by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (GOI) to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for establishment of a centralized vaccines manufacturing facility with international standards in government sector at an estimated cost of INR 594.00 crores and was declared as a “Project of National Importance”
Tamilnadu government officials sources apprised Chief Minister M.K Stalin said the vaccine production capacity of the facility is several times more than the total Covid vaccine doses that have been distributed in the country so far.
They also said the unit can actually start producing vaccines within three to four months if all necessary clearances are given.
Inspecting the HLL Biotech premises at Chengelpet near here, Stalin said the Tamil Nadu government would extend all necessary support and requested the Centre to start producing the covid vaccines, considering its increased requirement.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Tuesday urged the Centre to take steps expeditiously to commence production of COVID-19 vaccine, at a facility owned by it near here.
The Centre-owned facility should become operational expeditiously and required financial allocation be set apart for commencement of production, the CM said.
A government release said senior officials, including HLL director Dr Vijayan and Principal Secretary-Industries of the Tamil Nadu government, N Muruganandham were present during the inspection.
After DMK led party came to power in Tamilnadu In a letter to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on May 12, Ambumani Ramadoss, former Union Health Minister and Rajya Sabha MP, highlighted the need for making the Integrated Vaccine Complex functional at the earliest for making Covid-19 vaccines.
The election ally of DMK ever since 2019 , CPM Party leader and Rajya Sabha MP T K Rangarajan also In his latest letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 19, and Rangarajan said HLL Biotech has all the facilities to produce sufficient quantities of the vaccine in the country.
Though the firm initially during Jan 2021 invited “expression of interest” from private and public enterprises, the move did not elicit much interest from corporate houses.
So, the government decided to go for the tender route and the outcome of tender is not made known as on date .
It should be noted as per the tender document given in company website having open date of tenders as at 23 April the firm that wins the bid would be able to use the facility for making “Covid-19, other vaccines and biological products” for 15 years.
Sources said Bharat Biotech has shown some inclination, but the PR agency, which is in-charge, said the company would not be willing to make any comment.
In its RTI reply last year, HLL Biotech Limited (HBL), which runs the IVC, admitted that it had a sanctioned staff strength of 408, of which 251 posts are vacant. It also said that the facility was yet to start manufacturing vaccines, due to which, it incurred a loss of Rs 96.25 crore between 2013 and 2019.
Chennai (North) DMK MP Dr Kalanidhi Veeraswamy, who is also a member of Consultative Committee, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said, “I visited the IVC a few days back to get to know the problem first hand. My interaction with the staff revealed that the Centre has not sanctioned Rs 300 crore that is needed to commence production.
The project cost escalated from original Rs 594 crore in 2013 to Rs 904 crore in 2019. The Central government has reportedly not approved the sanction of escalated cost till date saying it is not feasible.
Ironically, the Centre and State governments are shelling out hundreds of crores for pre-booking vaccines from private manufacturers. Employees say production can be commenced within three months, if all the clearances are given,” the MP said.
To a query, Veeraswamy said: ” The Central government should answer this question. If funding alone is the problem, Tamil Nadu government is ready to pump-in that additional Rs 300 crore to help run the facility, which is a Project of National Importance.”
Addressing technology compatibility issues is also a hindrance and the facility has to go through WHO GMP (good manufacturing practises) check before commencing the production,” an expert said.