The first batch of 4 million doses of imported H1N1 vaccine will arrive in India by mid December. They will be used to inoculate frontline workers in hospitals involved in screening, testing and treating people infected with H1N1, popularly known as swine flu.
“Four international vaccine manufacturers — Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Sanofi-Aventis and Baxter International — have quoted rates to the government,” said Vineet Chawdhry, joint secretary, Union ministry of health.
Order will be placed next week. “All four companies have indicated they have the capacity to provide the volumes needed,” said Chawdhry.
Bridge trials to confirm safety on the Indian population have started.
“Vaccine safety is the biggest concern more than efficacy as H1N1 can be treated,” said Chawdhry.
The US abandoned mass flu immunisation in 1976 after it was found that the vaccine led to paralysis in some people.
Experts said they are expecting a delay in the supply of India’s indigenous vaccines being developed by the Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, Panacea Biotec and Zydus Cadila.
“Animal trials have begun but even with the safety and efficacy trials being fast-tracked, the vaccines are not expected to be ready till June,” said a health ministry official who did not want to be named.
Only one dose of the vaccine is needed to offer protection against H1N1.