India has announced the launch of an indigenously developed vaccine for prevention of Japanese encephalitis.
Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad on Friday launched the JENVAC, which has been jointly developed by scientists of the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and Bharat Biotech Ltd.
''The JENVAC is a completely indigenous vaccine and an outstanding example of public-private partnership (PPP), and a remarkable milestone in the emergence of our country as an innovative and self-sufficient technology hub,'' Azad said while launching the vaccine.
He congratulated all those involved in this project of national importance.
Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) has been a serious public health challenge for India. Of the more than 100 viruses and other agents that can cause this syndrome, about a dozen odd are reported from India.
Beginning with first report in 1955 from Vellore in Tamil Nadu JE virus has spread to over 171 districts in 19 states.
So far India has been using a vaccine imported from China. But its poor availability was an issue for comprehensive and quick augmentation of the national programme.
The JENVAC, manufactured by Bharat Biotech, is not only the first fully indigenous vaccine, but is also based on an Indian strain. This is expected to help improve the efficacy besides availability and affordability of the vaccine.
The main work to develop the JE vaccine began in 2008 with the signing of the agreement between NIV Pune and Bharat Biotech and the finished vaccine product was finally approved by the DCGI in September, 2013 after five years of consistent work, during which the scientists went through all the phases of development and clinical trials.
The JE vaccine candidate strain (821564 XZ), used for making this vaccine was isolated from the blood sample collected from an encephalitic patient admitted to government hospital in Kolar district of Karnataka between November and December 1981.
The health minister said the need for this vaccine is immense since the birth cohort in the affected 171 districts is about 4 million annually, which means that we would eventually need about 10 million doses of the vaccine for comprehensive coverage.
Azad said the government has accepted the recommendations of the group of ministers (GoM) for a comprehensive multi-pronged strategy for the prevention and control of Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome.
The union cabinet also gave its approval for a new 'National Programme for Prevention and Control of JE / AES' with an annual outlay of more than Rs4,000 crore. This programme is now being implemented in 60 priority districts for a period of five years from 2012-13 to 2016-17 by the concerned ministries.
Azad said ICMR has accelerated research, beginning with establishment of the regional field unit of NIV at Gorakhpur. Currently, 6 ICMR institutes are engaged in research on better methods of prevention and management of JE / AES syndrome.
Interventions are being focused on five states namely, Assam, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.