A vaccine to prevent avian flu developed by a Bhopal-based research institute could be available for as cheap as 35 paise per dose, official sources said.
Developed by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), it is the first vaccine against avian flu in the country.
HSADL, which has the technique for identifying the avian influenza virus among poultry, tested thousands of bird samples, including droppings of migratory birds, after avian flu (H5N1) hit some parts of western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra earlier in 2006.
The country suffered losses estimated at Rs 7 billion ($150 million) with over one million birds culled and about 1.5 million eggs as well as several thousand tonnes of feed destroyed, according to official sources.
"The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) entrusted us with the job of developing the vaccine soon after the first outbreak of the disease this February and also provided us with Rs 80 million promptly to help us accomplish the challenging task," said HSADL Joint Director Dr HK Pradhan.
Led by Pradhan, a special team of scientists swung into action, toiling day and night on the vaccine, and developed it in less than six months.
"The cost of the vaccine has been worked out at 27 paise per dose. It is expected to go up to 35 paise, including the trader's profit and cost of transportation. But it will be for the company manufacturing the vaccine to decide on the selling price," Pradhan said.
"We had the viruses collected during this year's outbreak and the cell lines taken five years ago," said Pradhan. "The vaccine can be used immediately after an outbreak to control the spread of the virus as well as for vaccination in anticipation of an outbreak.
"However, vaccination before an outbreak is generally not advisable as the vaccine has its own limitations. But there is little chance of bird flu occurring after vaccination as the vaccine uses a killed virus to elicit good immune response."
"The immune response is good and the protection offered by the vaccine has been found to be above 90 per cent. The duration of protection should last up to six months for hens. For a broiler it needs to be administered only once," he claimed.