Vaccines to serve as weapons against dreaded diseases!
Complete immunization remains high on the agenda of the union health minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan as he points out the fact that lakhs of young children die of preventable diseases every year in India. The Minister is right when he rues that even 29 years after the launch of the immunisation program, only 65-70 percent of the children get immunized. "One important aspect of meeting healthcare challenges is to focus on preventive and positive healthcare, in which immunization plays a big role," Dr Vardhan said at an event in Delhi, adding further, "I believe we can achieve anything if we put our heart into it. The eradication of polio from India, once considered an impossible task, is an excellent example. There is goodness in every person's heart. We need to leverage that and make every Indian a stakeholder in good health. I assure you that the government is very serious about achieving total immunization in India, and whatever it takes, we are determined to achieve this goal."
The recent introduction of four new vaccines in the universal immunization programme (UIP) is being labelled as major accomplishment. The inclusion of injectable polio vaccine (IPV) is expected to aid in complete elimination and achieving the zero virus targets, not possible earlier in case of oral polio vaccine due to the live nature of virus. Similarly, the new Rubella vaccine with high efficacy will not only control Rubella but Measles as well. Hence, it is the elimination of two diseases at no extra cost. While the Japanese Encephalitis was already existing in immunization program but now coverage is being extended to adults due to increased number of cases being reported. Rotavirus vaccine is considered to be a major achievement to contain diarrhoea although experts lay onus also on sanitation and better hygiene too. It is said that estimated 50,000 deaths could be averted just by rolling rotavirus immunization.
As per India Infrastructure Report 2013-14, currently only 11 percent of the vaccines in India are a part of the UIP while 65 percent constitute the non-UIP vaccines. Rabies vaccine and sera/globulins account for 12 and 10 percent respectively. Hence, there exist a lot many opportunities for the companies to collaborate with the government agencies to produce affordable yet profitable vaccines.
DBT at the forefront
"Over a period of time, the vaccine industry in India has grown enormously, with international experience and has set up state of art vaccine manufacturing units with WHO pre-qualified standards and supplying vaccines to various countries in the world," said Dr TS Rao, senior advisor, Department of Biotechnology (DBT).