The Indian government on Tuesday announced the development of a low-cost vaccine that is effective against the diarrhea-causing Rotavirus. The vaccine named Rotavac, will help prevent the death of over half a million children who die annually across the globe due to the illness.
At a press conference held on Tuesday the government announced that the phase III trials of the Rotavac proved to be safe and effective.
"An important scientific breakthrough" is what Department of Biotechnology Secretary Dr K Vijay Raghavan termed the development. "Rotavirus infections are the most severe and lethal cause of childhood diarrhea, responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths of small children in India each year." He expressed optimism that the vaccine, if licensed, could save the lives of thousands of children each year in India.
The India-developed vaccine Rotavac in collaboration with Bharat Biotech is said to be efficacious in preventing severe rotavirus diarrhea in low-resource areas of India. The Indian manufacturer of the vaccine, Bharat Biotech with which the government had teamed up in a public-private partnership model has assured to sell it for $1 (around ₹54) per dose.
Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death of children after pneumonia, and the Rotavirus that causes it spreads through faecal-oral route mainly by contaminated hands, objects, food and water.
The vaccine was developed from a weakened strain of virus from a child hospitalised in New Delhi, more than a quarter century ago. According to ScienceInsider, it was in 1985 that Maharaj Kishan Bhan, a vaccine researcher then at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences identified the non-pathogenic strain in the virus. Thirteen years later, the effort to develop the vaccine gained momentum when a Hyderabad based pharmaceutical company was selected to develop and manufacture the vaccine. The government and foreign partners including, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, poured about $100 million (₹540 crore) into the project.
The vaccine needs to be licensed and sanctioned by the World Health Organization, before it could be sold in India and distributed globally.