The greatest sorrow for any parent is losing their child. One of the fatal diseases for children under 2 years is pneumonia. According to the reports of UNICEF in 2019, India accounts for 1.27 lakh deaths every year because of pneumonia. It is caused by bacteria called Streptococcus pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection affecting the lungs. Which causes inflammation of the small grape-like sacs in our lungs, filling them with fluids. It causes difficulty in breathing. The symptoms of Pneumonia are chills with fever, cough with phlegm, and difficulty in breathing. Pneumonia can spread easily from one person to another by infected droplets. But the fatality rate is much less in adults.
Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd.
Dr Cyrus Poonawalla founded the Serum Institute of India in 1966. This company aimed to produce vital medicines, which were costly and imported by foreign countries. Now this company has become India’s number one biotechnology company, and the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. Vaccines made by the Serum Institute of India are accredited by WHO and are being used by 170 countries.
Recently The company got approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) for its brand new indigenous vaccine against Pneumonia. The name of the vaccine is Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Conjugate Vaccine (PPSV23) which protects against 23 types of pneumonia-causing bacteria. It also protects against meningitis, bacteremia, and blood infections.
Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III clinical trials of the Pneumococcal Polysaccharide Conjugate Vaccine were carried out all over India. According to The Print, Phase 1 trials were conducted on 34 young adults. The phase II trials were carried out on 114 toddlers aged between 12-15 months. The last phase that is Phase III was carried out on 448 infants and was completed by October 2019.
Why is Serum’s PPSV23 better than other vaccines available?
Currently, there are two vaccines available: the first is GSK’s vaccines and the second one is Pfizer’s vaccine. GSK’s vaccine has 10 serotypes, available at the cost of ₹1,600 per dose. Pfizer’s vaccine contains 13 serotypes, Priced at ₹3600 per dose. Each child needs to be given at least four doses (6, 10, 14 weeks, and a booster at 9 months) for full protection. PPSV23 contains 10 serotypes, 2 from 13 serotype vaccine.
Dr Rajeev Dhere said the price of their vaccines would be substantially lower than any other vaccine available in the Indian market. He also told The Hindu that they wanted to make this vaccine available to all lower and middle-class families.
The rate of the vaccine was said to be $ 2 per dose, which is 30% lesser than GAVI prices.
Dr. Dheere also said of selling 100 million doses per year of which 40-50 million doses will be sold in India and rest in poor and Middle-class countries. But it needs to clear a few hurdles to make 40-50 million sales in India. The very first hurdle is its inclusion in India’s Universal Immunisation Program (UIP). A vaccine can be included in Universal Immunisation Programme only after the approval of the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) The vaccine has already been introduced to Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and a few parts of Bihar.
The second hurdle is India will stop receiving GAVI’s support end of 2020. The pneumococcal vaccine provided through India’s UIP was supported by GAVI. The only way for India to keep providing vaccines is to enroll PPSV23 in other states as well.
The approval of DGCI has perfect timing. We just wish it gets approved by NITAG and the immunization starts as soon as possible., Pneumonia killed 127,000 seconds highest in the world, the sooner we get the affordable vaccine the better it will be for the world.