In the wake of information circulating on the internet about the possible use of newborn calf in Covaxin, the central government has clarified that Covaxin vaccine does not contain the serum of the newborn calf. The government reiterated that the serum of calf as well as that of other animals are only used in the process of developing a vaccine. The serum is used in order to develop the disease causing virus, bacteria or other vital pathogens in the laboratory. It also said that despite being used in the process of developing a potent vaccine, the vaccine does not in any manner use serum as one of the ingredients, the Indian Express reported.
How are vaccines developed?
The kind of vaccines which has been developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech takes help of the disease-causing virus to evoke an immune response in human beings. The injected vaccine is nothing but the disease-causing virus which has been killed or inactivated but still has the capability to trigger a strong immune response. However, the disease-causing virus has to be developed in the laboratory. The developers of the vaccine try to create a conducive environment, similar to an infected human body, that helps the disease-causing virus in its growth. For creating the conducive environment, developers are in need of specific sugars and salt molecules that are extracted from animals like horses, cow, goat or sheep, the Indian Express reported.
So does the animal serum remain a part of the vaccine?
After the disease-causing virus has sufficiently grown in the nutrient rich environment, the virus is made to go through several stages of purifications and there is no trace left of the actual nutrients that helped the growth of disease-causing vaccine. Hence, the final form of vaccine does not constitute any animal traces.
Why calf serum?
As per the US Food and Drug Administration, cow serum body parts are used in the vaccination process as the animal is big, easily available and has some of the most vital chemicals and enzymes. US FDA website mentions cow as an animal that has amino acids, and sugars such as galactose. It also said that the calf serum is particularly beneficial in order to facilitate growth of a difficult to grow disease-causing virus or micro-organisms.