By Roli Verma:
With the launch of the first indigenous intra-nasal vaccine for swine flu onÂ 14 July 2010 in Mumbai, it was undoubtedly one of the most memorable days in the history of the pharmaceutical industry in India. Once injected, it protects people from the deadly swine flu virus- H1N1. This pandemic has already taken a heavy toll on precious lives. There have been reports of aroundÂ 1035 deaths so far.
This virulent flu originated in Mexico in 2009, and has spread widely in our country as well, since then. Subsequently, our government started screening people coming from affected countries, for swine flu symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of seasonal flu and may include- fever, sneezing, sore throat, cough, headache and muscle or joint pain. Experts assume that the virus most likely emerged from pigs in Asia and infected persons became the carriers of this disease, hence its rapid spread in North America. The H1N1 virus typically spreads from coughs and sneezes or by touching contaminated surfacesand then touching the nose or mouth. Over a year, there has been an increase in rate of transmission of this virus. Until now, there have been reports of 10193 cases of swine flu. People are so petrified they are even canceling business trips abroad therefore; the ‘flu’ has a pernicious effect on the global economy too. It is a common sight to see people wearing masks in public areas and avoiding public transport.The recent launch of the intra-nasal vaccine byÂ Serum institute of India can be a respite for many. Its Pune based makers claim that 0.5ml of theÂ vaccine Nasovac when delivered into the nasal cavity can guard a person from the troublesome, and often fatal, H1N1 virus or swine flu for a period of over a year or two. The Serum Institute of India claims that it is painless, safe and has no side effects. It is even affordable, as one nasal shot costs Rupees 160, which is half the price of foreign vaccines sold in India. However, it may not be of use to the sections who are most vulnerable- pregnant women, infants andpeople with suppressed immunity. Involving egg-based technology, the vaccine could have contra-indication on those with hypersensitivity to eggs, besides those taking aspirin therapy. Other participants in the H1NI vaccines segment includeÂ Sanofi Aventis, Zydus Cadila, Panacea Biotec and Bharat Biotec.
Serum will donate Rupees 3 crore worth of vaccines to under-privileged people through NGOs. Despite the low cost, Serum doubts whether the nasal vaccine would be widely used because Indians do not have the habit of using flu vaccines. Moreover, we live in tropics and are more susceptible to viruses. Therefore, we have better immunological reaction than westerners do. However, we must keep ourselves informed about the happenings, and the steps we can take to prevent this! Serum is also in process of developing another swine flu vaccine for children below 3 years. It will hit the markets after 2-3 months. Further, the union government must issue a health advisory to the public at large so that people switch to this painless prevention method — vaccination against swine flu…