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Times of India
22 January 2009
New Delhi, India
By Kounteya Sinha

900 Infants Given Doses To Test Efficacy Of Drops Against P1 & P3 Strains

The world’s first bivalent vaccine-that will protect children against both P1 and P3 strains of polio virus-is being tested in India. Around 900 newborn children in Indore, Chennai and Pune have already been given two doses of the oral bivalent vaccine (BOPV). Scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) want to see whether the bivalent vaccine, manufactured by Panacea, provides as much immunity to children as the present-day vaccine of choice–monovalent oral polio vaccine (MOPV).

Blood samples of children in trial have already been collected. After being analysed by the Enterovirus Research Centre in Mumbai, the final results on whether BOPV can be an alternative to MOPV will become clear by April.

Speaking to TOI from Seattle, Dr Linda Venczel, former deputy chief of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) polio eradication programme said, “Field trials are important to see whether a single vaccine can help prevent both the existing polio viruses in India–P1 and P3. This is the vaccine’s first study. If found effective, we will test it in other polio-affected countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. We are comparing MOPV and BOPV to see whether the latter is as effective.’’

According to an ICMR scientist, at present a child has to be first immunised against P1 by using a MOPV1 vaccine and then against P3 by orally administering a MOPV3 vaccine. “We are trying to see whether a single vaccine can protect against both the viruses. In the trials, BOPV has to show at least 90% efficacy for it to be considered,’’ he added.

Meanwhile, the fight against polio got a major financial push on Wednesday. Dr Venczel, who is a senior officer of the vaccine preventable diseases programme at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the foundation along with the British and German governments were committing over $630 million in fresh funds to fight polio. In 2008, India recorded 549 polio cases of which 68 were caused by the P1 strain and 481 were P3 infections.

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