Swine flu vaccine in six months: Health ministry

June 12th, 2009 - 8:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Indian scientists are working on developing a vaccine for influenza A (H1N1), or swine flu, by the end of the year, a senior health ministry official said here Friday.
Scientists of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune, are working on the project. There is no known vaccine so far to tackle the virus.

“Scientists at the ICMR and NIV have already characterised the virus causing the influenza. We will be able to develop the vaccine in the next four to six months,” Health Ministry Joint Secretary Vineet Chawdhry told reporters here.

The ministry Thursday wrote to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Director General Margaret Chan requesting for the “seed stock” of the influenza virus.

“The seed stock is the cultured virus, which has the highest vaccine immunity and is commonly present in majority of the affected cases. If the vaccine is developed from the seed virus then it is likely to be effective for other strains,” Shashi Khare, head of virology at the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD), told IANS.

Chawdhry said the WHO is ready to share the seed stock with countries that have the “capability” to develop the vaccine.

The ICMR has also begun discussions with private vaccine manufacturers for developing the vaccine.

“The indigenous vaccine manufacturers will be partnered to develop the vaccine. We have identified three pharmaceutical companies - Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech and Panacea Biotech for the project,” said Chawdhry.

The WHO is already collaborating with the Serum Institute of India for developing a seasonal flu vaccine.

“Once the vaccine is ready we will fast track the regulatory process so that the vaccine is available in the market soon,” Chawdhry pointed out.

“The vaccine has to be developed keeping in mind a second wave that will be more potent as the present virus is moderate and reacting to the Tamiflu (drug),” Chawdhry added.

India has so far reported 16 swine flu cases, including two human-to-human transfer cases.

The ICMR is the apex body for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research in the country. The NIV is the Virus Research Centre (VRC) under the ICMR.

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