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Though it has been shut for over a year due to a snag, CRI officials aren’t keen on repairing it

It seems the country’s only yellow fever vaccine manufacturing machine has gone to the dogs. For over a year now, the machine at the Central government-run Central Research Institute (CRI) here has not produced any vaccine which is a must for travellers bound for yellow feverendemic regions of Africa and some South American countries.

The effect: to overcome its shortage, the government has to bank on imports which has subsequently shot the price of the vaccine in the country up.

Officials said the cost of the imported vaccine is between Rs 2,500 and Rs 3,000, whereas it is just Rs 150 for the one manufactured by CRI.

CRI officials said the manufacturing machine’s freezer drier, a crucial part which dries the liquid form of the vaccine, has developed a major snag.

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"Since the machine is imported, authoritiesinDelhiarenotkeentoget it repaired. Being a government setup, there has always been unusual delay in purchase, payment and procedure of obtaining spares," said an official, who did not wish to be named.

"Thecrucialsegmentoftheyellow fever manufacturing unit is out of order for one and a half years. There has been no manufacturing of the vaccine at all in the institute since then," CRI officiating director S Kutty said.

He said spares for the machines are not available in India and the process is on to procure them from abroad. Kutty said CRI Kasauli was meeting one-third of the country’s total vaccine demand for yellow fever, which is caused by a flavivirus transmitted by a mosquito. "We weremanufacturing40,000vialsannually against the total demand of 1,20,000. The rest of the demand is metthroughimports,"headded.According to official sources, the vaccine has been out of stock throughout the country since the backlog cleared three to four months ago.

"There was a shortage, but the government has imported the vaccine from multinational companies like Sanofi Pasteur and the stock arrived on July 11," Director General of Health Services Jagdish Prasad said in Delhi.

A CRI official said the institute, one of the three CRIs in the country, has been in a total mess since 2008.

He said CRI’s manufacturing licence was suspended by the Drugs Controller General of India in January 2008asitwasnotfoundincompliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) norms for manufacturing.

However, the Central government allowed the 105-year-old CRI Kasaulitorestartproductionin2010 after it upgraded its machinery and laboratoriesbyspendingRs50crore, according to norms laid down by WHO’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Times of India
22 July 2013, Kasauli.

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