India launches first fully indigenous pneumococcal vaccine

New Delhi - Serum Institute is also testing and producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in India

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Published: Mon 28 Dec 2020, 4:58 PM

Last updated: Mon 28 Dec 2020, 5:00 PM

Pune-based Serum Institute of India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world by doses, on Monday announced the launch of India's first indigenously developed pneumococcal vaccine - Pneumosil - in the presence of Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.

Pneumosil has been developed through collaboration spanning over a decade among the Serum Institute, PATH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This significant milestone is aimed at improving pneumococcal conjugate vaccine affordability and enabling sustainable access for low-and middle-income countries.

The vaccine will provide effective and long-lasting protection for children against pneumococcal diseases. The vaccine makes the Serum Institute the world's third supplier of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV) under the pneumococcal Advance Market Commitment (AMC), and the first developing country vaccine manufacturer to access the global PCV market.

In his address on the occasion, Harsh Vardhan said: "It is a significant milestone for the country's public health care which will ensure that children are protected better against pneumococcal disease with an affordable and high-quality vaccine."

About the launch of Pneumosil, Serum Institute's CEO Adar Poonawalla said: "Over the years, our constant endeavour has been to provide high quality vaccines with regular supplies which ensures excellent immunisation coverage to children and families worldwide. With that thought, we have developed this PCV with a unique composition based on the serotype prevalence in India."

"This makes our PCV an ideal choice for protecting our children from pneumococcal disease. While the vaccine itself is of the highest quality and grade available, vaccine accessibility is of utmost importance as well, and to ensure ease of access by making it available at an affordable price. With the best PCV, we hope to bring down the mortality rate significantly while also making our country self-sufficient with a robust public health care system," he added.

Pneumococcal infections are caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium. It can lead to pneumonia, septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis. It can also cause permanent brain damage or death.

Pneumococcal disease is a significant contributor to the under-five mortality rate worldwide. Annually, India witnesses an estimated 71 per cent of pneumonia deaths and 57 per cent of severe pneumonia cases.

Every year nearly 67,800 children under 5 years of age die India from pneumococcal diseases in 2018. Recognising its widespread fatality, WHO recommends the inclusion of Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in routine childhood immunisation programs in all countries. Following this, Polysaccharide Conjugate Vaccines (PCV) work directly to reduce the incidence of pneumococcal pneumonia by preventing Streptococcus pneumonia.

Serum Institute is also the pharma company that is testing and producing the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in India. The vaccine is the frontrunner in the race to find the silver bullet.

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