Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad launched India’s first indigenously prodcued vaccine against Japanese Encephalitis (JE), a mosquito-borne viral infection that affects the central nervous system, on Friday.
National Institute of Virology, Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech Ltd. jointly developed the vaccine— JENVAC-- under the public-private-partnership model for the prevention and control of JE and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) that has killed more than 3000 people since last three years in the eastern part of India.
As part of the National Programme for Prevention and Control of JE and AES, the immunization programme will be implemented in 60 priority districts for a period of five years.
Of 171 endemic districts in India, 118 districts are covered under JE immunization programme that has about Rs. 4000 crore outlay.
To begin with, the programme will focus on five worst affected states— Assam, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.
“Public health need for this vaccine is immense since the birth cohort in the affected 171 districts is about 40 lakh annually, which means that we would eventually need about one crore doses of the vaccine for comprehensive coverage,” said Azad during the launch.
On an average, the disease kills 1000 persons in a year, particularly between the months of July and October.
Pune-based NIV provided Bharat Biotech with a strain of the virus that was isolated from Kolar, Karnataka, for the vaccine.
India currently imported its stock of live JE vaccine from China.
The disease was first recognized in India in 1955, when cases of encephalitis from North Arcot district of Tamil Nadu and neighboring districts of Andhra Pradesh, admitted to Christian Medical College Hospital, Vellore, were serologically diagnosed as Japanese Encephalitis.
The disease in southern India affects children below 15 years, while in north India all age groups are affected.
Symptoms to watch out for:
Abrupt onset of high fever
Unconsciousness, even slipping into coma