India on 3.06.2010 launched its first indigenously manufactured anti-influenza vaccine that will protect people against the A(H1N1) flu, which has killed over 1,500 people in the country since the pandemic broke out last year.
Manufactured by Zydus-Cadila Healthcare, Vaxiflu-S will be available in markets from Friday. The monovalent single-dose vaccine, available for Rs.350 on prescription, will be effective for one year.
“This technological breakthrough has for the first time created a platform in the country which can be used for production of any pandemic influenza vaccine, besides seasonal influenza vaccines, at short notice to safeguard public health,” said Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad who, along with Cadila Healthcare chairman-cum-managing director Pankaj Patel, took a shot of Vaxiflu-S at the launch.
The egg-based inactivated vaccine, based on conventional technology, has been developed by the Ahmedabad-based Cadila’s Vaccine Technology Centre.
It can be used only by people in the age group 18-60 and is not meant for children, pregnant women and those allergic to eggs. For the first two categories, further trials are still on, Mr. Patel told journalists. The company has already manufactured 4.5 lakh doses.
Another vaccine major, the Serum Institute of India at Pune, is expected to launch its vaccine by month-end.
The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech Limited and the New Delhi-based Panacea Biotec will make their products available by August. That should bring down the cost of the vaccine, Mr. Azad said.
The Minister regretted that the imported vaccine supplied to States last year for use on health care workers had been poorly used, except in Arunachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.
“I will write to the Chief Ministers and Health Ministers, asking them to make use of the indigenously manufactured vaccine, at least for the health workers, to protect them from influenza during the coming monsoon and the winter season,” he said.
Pointing out that Vaxiflu-S would offer protection only against the A(H1N1) influenza, Mr. Patel said research was on to develop by next year a trivalent vaccine that would provide protection from all three types (including H1N1) of influenza strains known in India.
On the side-effects Vaxiflu-S, he said these were minor including fatigue, fever, local pain and an upset stomach. Clinical trials showed an excellent overall tolerance.
There have been over 18,000 deaths globally from the A(H1N1) influenza since it started in 2009. The worst-affected States were Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Occasional deaths are still being reported from Maharashtra and Kerala, with the incidence expected to go up with the onset of monsoon.
The anti-influenza vaccines available in India at present are all imported and cost between Rs.900 and 1,000 a dose.
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