SII Develops Vaccine For Meningitis A
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17 July 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
The Serum Institute of India (SII) has developed an indigenous low–cost vaccine to fight meningitis A. Priced at Rs 150, as compared to the existing imported vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur that costs Rs 1,050 per dose, it will be available in India only next year.
This improved low–cost vaccine was last month approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for supply to UN agencies. It is currently meant for use in the Sub–Saharan African countries.
Speaking to TOI on Friday, SII’s executive director S S Jadhav said, "The new vaccine opens up a world of new possibilities. The existing imported vaccine being used in India gives short–term protection and is less effective in the younger age group (below two years). However, the indigenous new vaccine, developed by SII, gives almost four times greater protection, lasting several years, across all age groups. It is going to be a game changer to prevent meningitis A epidemics in the future."
"We have succeeded in tailoring the product to suit medical needs of developing countries and have kept the vaccine affordable. This is in contrast to the expensive vaccines developed by pharma companies abroad, that fetch extremely high prices and are not produced with needs of developing nations in mind," added Jadhav.
"In India, sporadic outbreaks due to group A meningococcal meningitis have been reported from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and the North–East. This vaccine will help prevent similar outbreaks in India in the future," said Jadhav.
The cost–effective vaccine will be of great help to the 430 million people in Sub–Saharan Africa at risk of meningitis A disease. "The new vaccine will be made available to the 23 countries in Sub–Saharan Africa at the cost of around half dollar in September, said Jadhav. Meningococcal meningitis, a preventable infection which is often disabling and potentially fatal, disproportionately occurs in the ‘meningitis belt’ of Africa – from Senegal and the Gambia in the east to Ethiopia in the west.
The SII’s vaccine is part of the Meningitis Vaccine Project – a partnership between the WHO, non–profit organisation PATH and the Serum Institute of India. The project was launched in 2003.
Meningitis is one of the world’s most dreaded infectious diseases. Even with antibiotic treatment, at least 10% of patients die with another 10 to 20% left with permanent problems, such as mental retardation, deafness or epilepsy.