Chemical supply delay slows sanitiser production at Pasteur

COVID testing centre to be ready within fortnight

SHILLONG: Delay in supply of the chemicals used in making hand sanitisers is an impediment to production boost at Pasteur Institute.
Microbiologist Dr W Lyngdoh told The Shillong Times on Monday that production of sanitisers started on April 2 as part of the COVID-19 emergency but “it could have been earlier had we received the raw materials faster”.
“The chemicals were received on the morning of April 2 and we started work immediately,” added Lyngdoh, who is among the four experts in the production team.
The guidelines of the World Health Organisation suggest two formulations for making sanitiser and Pasteur Institute follows the second one that uses 7,515 ml of isopropyl alcohol, 417 ml of hydrogen peroxide and 145 ml of glycerol, besides distilled water, for preparing 10 litres of sanitiser. Orders for the chemicals are placed with government-approved suppliers.
In the first phase, the institute produced 20 litres a day. Now, it is planning to increase the daily production by 30 litres. “We have sufficient equipment for making 50 litres per day and we will probably start by Tuesday or Wednesday. But the biggest disadvantage is the delayed flow of supply. If that is on time, we can produce in bigger quantities,” said Lyngdoh.
The production unit received its second consignment of Isopropyl alcohol after “almost three weeks” on Monday, said pharmacologist Dr M Marak.
The slow supply of raw materials is another reason why the unit is staying away from mass production and prioritising healthcare institutes.
Making sanitisers
The Food and Drug Analysis wing of the institute has diversified into producing sanitisers owing to the pandemic. The production team is divided into two units “to avoid congestion in one room”.
In fact, the staff — headed by a microbiologist, two pharmacologists and a drug analyst — in the laboratory are multi-tasking. “We have to come on Sundays too to ensure that the production continues,” said Lyngdoh. Despite the extra work, the experts were enthusiastic about explaining this reporter the production process.
Government Drug Analyst Euniki Warjri said the bottles are sanitised in the autoclave machine before the product is poured. After bottling, the sanitiser is kept in “72-hour quarantine”.
“A batch takes three days to be user-ready. So the production chain has to be continuous in order to keep supply going,” said Warjri.
The sanitiser comes in different sizes of bottles and the pricing is as per the government notification. A 500 ml bottle is sold for Rs 250 and a 125 ml one is sold at Rs 62.
Lyngdoh showed the 125 ml bottles which were lined up to be taken to the corona care centres and other health centres for distribution.
When asked about the regular food and drug analysis section, Lyngdoh said despite the emergency, the administration and other activities of the food and testing laboratory should not stop. “We are not getting too many samples for testing now. So we can focus on sanitiser. But as and when samples come, we have to work on that too,” she added.
COVID centre
The COVID testing centre is being set up at Pasteur institute and will take another 10-15 days to start. Pathologist Dr E Shadap, who is the nodal person for the Central Supply and Sterile Department (CSSD) and the COVID-19 testing laboratories, said the testing facility is coming up under the mentorship of Dr AC Phukan of NEIGRIHMS.
The centre will use RT-PCR test or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test and “we will not rush for the number of samples tested but try to ensure that the tests are qualitative and detection is perfect”.
About CSSD, Shadap said the institute already has a robust sterilisation facility and expert staff. The unit is looking after sterilising medical equipment and disposing of used PPE and other medical waste at three COVID centres, including Shillong Civil Hospital, “to lessen the burden of the hospitals”.
“We will also extend help to the quarantine centres in the city but I am not sure how many,” Shadap added.

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