Serum Institute’s H1N1 vaccine will be ready next month



Photo: Serum Institute of India

With a sudden spurt in swine flu cases across the country, the Pune-based Serum Institute of India has started the production of its H1N1 vaccine, Nasovac, last month. Nasovac is an egg-based, trivalent, live attenuated vaccine.

The production of the first batch of 65,000 doses will be completed mid-March and made commercially available by that month-end once the National Control Laboratory, Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, releases the doses after testing. The company intends to produce 3,00,000 doses in all. A single dose will cost Rs. 800 and multiple doses Rs. 200.

“We are producing the vaccines on our own. The government has no policy to procure H1N1 vaccines and stockpile them,” Suresh Jadhav, Executive Director of the institute, said. “We can produce the vaccine in advance only if the government demands and stockpiles it.” The company only recently destroyed all its stock of H1N1 vaccine in the absence of demand.

The vaccine being produced uses an H1N1 virus strain recommended by the World Health Organisation. “The current strain circulating in India and the WHO-recommended strain are one and the same. Hence it will be effective,” said Mandeep Chadha, Deputy Director (Influenza division), National Institute of Virology, Pune. “There are no new mutations in the strain.” While the HA (haemagglutinin) and NA (neuraminidase) have been sequenced, the whole genome sequencing is currently being done.”

The vaccines will have a year’s shelf life. “It can be used during the 2015 winter provided the strain that circulates then remains the same,” Dr. Jadhav said. The WHO recommends the strain to be used in vaccines every June and December-January.

The company does not intend to export its vaccines. “There is no demand outside India and the vaccine has to be registered wherever we want to export them,” Dr. Jadhav said.

The Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech has the technology to produce an H1N1 vaccine.

Published in The Hindu on February 21, 2015