Dharam Shourie, PTI
New York: India is among six developing countries who have been awarded grants to establish capacity to manufacture influenza vaccine so that it is readily available in case a pandemic breaks out, the United Nations health agency has announced.
The other nations include Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam, each getting up to $2.5 million (Rs10.26 crore) from funds provided by the United States and Japan to begin the process of acquiring the technology to produce the vaccine.
The United States has provided $10 million and Japan $8 million for technology transfer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
Experts say it is important to establish production lines in developing nations which can be easily adapted to produce vaccines for bird flu should the virus mutate to make human to human infection possible.
WHO said it will take a minimum of three to five years for the grant recipient countries to begin producing vaccine locally. Until then, these countries will require support to ensure they can access vaccine to protect their populations.
“It is imperative that the global community works collectively to ensure more equitable access to a vaccine and other health measures in the event of an influenza pandemic. We all have a responsibility to protect global public health security,” said Dr David L Heymann, WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases.
“Global public health security can only be realised if developing countries are assisted in developing the capabilities to access pandemic vaccines and protect their populations,” he said.
Helping developing countries to produce flu vaccine carries a “dual life-saving benefit,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research.
“Countries will be able to protect their populations against seasonal influenza, which causes up to half a million annual deaths worldwide, as well as millions of cases of severe illness,” she said.
“In addition, should a pandemic emerge, production lines at these facilities can be converted to manufacture vaccine based on the pandemic strain.”
The grants are part of the implementation of the Global pandemic influenza action plan which aims to close the influenza vaccine production gap of several billion doses.
“The current global influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity is far short of the capacity needed to protect the world’s six billion people in the event of an influenza pandemic,” said United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. “These grants are an important step forward in the global effort to prepare for an influenza pandemic.”