An indigenously developed vaccine against influenza could be a month away, according to Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The vaccine, being developed by several pharmaceutical companies in India and with funds largely from the private sector, has reached the human clinical trial stage, Mr. Azad told presspersons after addressing the 14th convocation of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans) on Wednesday.

India has “taken advantage” of the recent swine flu pandemic to create a domestic vaccine, said Mr. Azad, adding that “if all goes well” the vaccine could be launched in a month. “We seen outbreaks bird flu, swine flu and the A (H1N1) strain of influenza. Several countries in the developed world have vaccines. This will be the first for India.”

As many as 68 students received their degrees at the convocation and eight presented awards. Mr. Azad said that exhorted the graduating students to opt for postings in rural areas where there is a dire shortage of medical practitioners, especially at the primary health sub-centres. The Union government has proposed to incentivise rural postings with a 10 per cent to 30 per cent weightage given to the candidates in the marks they score in the national entrance exam for postgraduate courses, he added.

The acute shortage of mental health professionals in the country was a matter of concern, said Mr. Azad.

Defence spin-off

Delivering the convocation address, Chief Controller Research and Development at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) W. Selvamurthy said that indigenous biomedical technology, such as those developed as a spin-off of defence research, should be given impetus.

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