INDIA – Hindustan Antibiotics Limited (HAL), the Pimpri-based drug manufacturing unit, will produce oral medication to tackle mild COVID-19 cases in the next three months.

This is a role the Indian government and public sector is set to undertake as a mitigative measure to help bolster the ailing health sector of the country.

The decision was met after a review board meeting was held between the company board members and the union minister of state of ports, shipping and waterways, and chemicals and fertilizers.

HAL is also hopeful in starting the production of alcoholic hand sanitizers and dry powder injectables as it seeks to develop a state-of-the-art facility.

Commenting on the manufacturing of the injectable COVID-19 vaccine, Saraf said, “We are exploring the possibility of manufacturing an injectable COVID vaccine, but there is little hope as the HAL plant has an old set-up for manufacturing, we will need an entirely new one.”

But on a more optimistic note, MP Manoj Kotak, president of HAL’s union — Hindustan Antibiotics Mazdoor Sangh — who was also present for the meeting, said, “The Union government is positive about manufacturing the COVID-19 injectable vaccine. It is willing to upgrade the HAL plant set-up for the same, with new machinery for production. We have asked the HAL management to send a detailed proposal of the equipment required to manufacture this vaccine and present it to the Union ministry.”

These plans come timely at a period when pulmonologists are advising patients with pre-existing respiratory diseases to get vaccine protection before the onset of the projected third wave of COVID pandemic.

Pulmonologist Dr Vikram Rathi, associated with Kingsway Hospital, said research papers suggest that the Delta Plus variant replicates faster and also can evade the body’s immunity.

“The studies have highlighted that Delta Plus is 50% more transmissible than the earlier variants. It definitely has a greater affinity to the lungs’ mucosal lining, but the extent of damage it can cause is yet not clear,” he said.

“Patients with pre-existing chronic lung conditions are more susceptible to suffer moderate to severe form of this diseases,” said Dr Rathi.

Another pulmonologist Dr Sameer Arbat said World Health Organization (WHO) has already cautioned about Delta Plus to be the fastest and fittest variant to have emerged so far.

“With 50%-60% more transmission rate, the WHO studies have suggested that more variants can be expected,” said Dr Arbat.

He added, “Current vaccines have potency to reduce death rate and hence all must go for the jabs. People with compromised lungs are the ones who have bigger risk from this variant. Such patients may suffer a serious fall in lungs functioning and the outcome may be more severe.”

At the moment, India is continuously recording more recovery cases compared to the number of new infections with the daily positivity rate at 2.61%.