A new, cheaper, and heat-stable rotavirus vaccine could prevent thousands of childhood deaths.
Vaccine maker Bharat Biotech announced that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has granted prequalification to its rotavirus vaccine ROTAVAC, used for prevention of infant deaths and hospitalisations due to rotavirus diarrhoea.
WHO prequalification is necessary for the UN agencies and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to purchase vaccines in partnership with developing countries.
"The WHO prequalification will ensure access of the vaccine to almost 100 countries," Bharat Biotech Chairman and MD Krishna Ella told.
This vaccine is innovated and made in India. The true impact of vaccines can be seen when vaccinations are carried out in affected populations, he added.
"ROTAVAC has been supplied to low income countries at USD one per dose, with the feasibility for further 30 per cent price reductions, based on the procurement of around 100 million doses for these countries," Ella said.
The vaccine has been developed as a result of a multi country - multi partner collaborative model for over two decades.
The vaccine is already being supplied to nine states in India under the government immunisation programme and is also available in markets across the nation, Ella said.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea and death among children less than five years of age around the world, the company said.
"The advent of a locally manufactured, WHO prequalified rotavirus vaccine offers promise to protect children in India, Africa, the Americas and the rest of Asia from this debilitating disease," said Duncan Steele, Enteric Diarrhoeal Diseases Team Deputy Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Bharat Biotech has successfully miniaturised the dose volume of ROTAVAC to 0.5 ml dose in a ready to use format, Ella said.
An opportunity for the low and middle income countries
This is obviously a good news for the low and middle income countries like Bangladesh who are planning to introduce the vaccine in their national immunisation programme.
Where cost was an issue, this low cost vaccine can solve the problem for sure. Well, that was the case in the near past as well, but the WHO prequalification has paved the way for stepping ahead.
Experts hope that this will be a game changer in the market since it has the potential to break the monopoly of giant western pharmaceutical companies.
Now it is time to speed up the process of formalities introducing the vaccine in the national immunisation for the poorest children who otherwise could not afford it.