India’s indigenous H1N1 vaccine will be ready only in April 2010, so the Union health ministry has activated its contingency plan to import and stockpile vaccines to inoculate healthworkers.
Health ministry estimates put the number of health workers at risk of getting H1N1 infection at 28 lakh. “The number of doses to be imported will be finalised this week, but the initial order will be at least 28 lakh vaccines,” said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, health ministry.
“If the companies seek marketing approval after trials, these vaccines will also be available at chemists,” said Chawdhry.
The decision, however, means that the earliest India can start inoculation will be December as these vaccines will be tested for safety on the Indian population before getting a nod for use in the country from the Drug Controller General of India.
Australia will begin immunising people against swine flu in 10 days, while the US, Canada, Europe and China starting vaccination in October.
MedImmune, Sanofi-Aventis, Baxter International, CSL Biotherapies, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Novartis are among the companies providing H1N1 vaccines to these countries.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India Ltd, Bharat Biotech and Panacea Biotec are working on indigenous H1N1 vaccines.
“Four international vaccine manufacturers have shown interest — GSK, Novartis, Baxter and recently, Sanofi Aventis — in doing clinical trials called ‘bridge trails’ in India once we make a commitment to purchase a minimum amount,” said Dr V.M. Katoch, secretary, department of health research, ministry of health.
Approval for the trials will be fast-tracked because of the pandemic situation, but it will still take a month before trials begin.
“The protocols will be ready next week and the trial will begin in a month. They will take six to eight weeks,” said Dr Katoch.
Only one dose of the vaccine is needed to offer protection against H1N1, which has killed 225 people in India.