Prof. Ramanan Laxminarayan, vice president, research and policy, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) believes that while there is lack of anti-biotics in rural areas, the cities are overexposed to their usage
Q: What kind of overall impact will the recent inclusion of four new vaccines have on the national immunization program?
The Government has introduced four new vaccines in the universal immunization program and no doubt it is a major accomplishment. The existing oral polio vaccine is a live virus and has its disadvantages such as vaccine derived polio cases. It can get into the environment and we cannot get rid of the polio virus like that as it will continue to remain there. The introduction of an injectable polio vaccine (IPV) will help in complete elimination and in achieving the zero virus targets. So, that is a major success for the polio program.
Contagious Rubella has been identified as one of the major problems by the Indian Society of Paediatrics. After discussions within the community, it was decided that the existing measles vaccines will be replaced. It is a great decision at the right time as the new vaccine will not only control Rubella but Measles as well. Hence, it eliminates two diseases at no extra cost.
The third vaccine is that of Japanese Encephalitis. It is not a new vaccine but an existing one. However, now the coverage is being extended to adults. The children are now better protected and hence, the infection is shifting to adults. Therefore, going after JE in high priority districts is on the agenda of the government.
Rotavirus is the major cause of diarrhoea in this country although sanitation and better hygiene too improve the situation. Its prevention can help save lives. Our estimate is that close to 50,000 deaths could be averted if the rotavirus immunization is done. There are two vaccines abroad-one from Merck and other from GSK. In India, permission has been granted to indigenously developed a vaccine through PPP. This is the remarkable partnership between government agencies, private players and international institutes that made it happen. The vaccines abroad cost close to $15, the one from India will be priced anywhere close to 50-60 cents. Trials of the vaccine have shown its efficiency to be similar to any other vaccine. There is no reason to doubt its superiority or labelling it inferior due to the price tag as the vaccine has been developed through rigorous processes and is of great quality.
This will be the single largest improvement in the last 30 years of UIP. It has increased the strength of the immunization program and is certainly a great achievement for the country.