An indigenous vaccine is set to make the prevention of pneumococcal infections in infants more affordable, a deadly disease that kills nearly 68,000 children under the age of 5 every year in India.
Serum Institute of India has launched the country’s first indigenous and world’s third pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. At $3 dollars a dose for government supplies and $10 for the private market, SII has priced the vaccine at a fraction of the cost of imported ones.
The vaccine, brand name ‘Pneumosil’, provides protection against 10 variants of pneumococcus bacteria that causes pneumonia, meningitis, ear, and blood infections in children.
In India, the vaccine has been approved as a three-dose regimen for the full pneumococcal conjugate vaccination.
Vaccines produced by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline are currently imported and used in India for immunization against pneumonia. Prevener 13, Pfizer’s pneumococcal vaccine that prevents against 13 strains of pneumococcus bacteria is priced at Rs 3,801 per dose and GSK’s Synflorix at Rs 2,195 per dose.
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are still not part of the Universal Immunisation Program in India.
SII said the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs has now floated a tender for procurement of the PCV vaccines and the company expects to supply 20-30 million dosages.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO, SII said, “We have capacity to make 100 million dosages per year. Our vaccine is an affordable alternative and the low cost will be helpful to expand coverage. We expect to cover 70-80% for all target children in India in next 2-3 year.”
Poonawalla said as the vaccine coverage expands it could help prevent 50-60% of pneumonia deaths in children in next 2-3 years.
Pneumococcal disease is a significant contributor to the under-five mortality rate worldwide. Annually, India witnesses an estimated 71% of pneumonia deaths and 57% of severe pneumonia cases. Recognizing it’s a widespread fatality, WHO recommends the inclusion of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in routine childhood immunization programs in all countries.
The vaccine is pre-qualified by the World Health Organisation for global supplies and SII has begun shipping the vaccine to UNICEF for child immunisation programmes in various low and middle-income countries. The composition of the vaccine SII says is specially tailored as per the prevalence of the top 10 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae in India and other regions of the world.
SII is also looking to expand the scope of the vaccine beyond children and test it for prevention of pneumonia in adults.
Since pneumonia is also one of the symptoms of COVID19, Dr Rajeev Dhere, Executive Director, SII said the vaccine can be used to prevent secondary infections in children. “Since there are no COVID19 vaccines yet for children, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine can be used to prevent secondary infections.”
Pneumosil has been developed through a collaboration between SII, PATH and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
(Edited by : Aditi Gautam)
First Published: IST