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Aarti Dhar 
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Finally an indigenously manufactured vaccine to prevent the deadly Japanese encephalitis

Vaccine:To the rescue.PHOTO: Subir Roy
Vaccine:To the rescue.PHOTO: Subir Roy

 At last, there is some good news for the thousands of children who suffer from the killer Japanese encephalitis (JE) across the country, particularly in eastern Uttar Pradesh, every year.

 India on Friday launched its indigenously manufactured vaccine that would prevent this disease among children. The vaccine being used at present is imported from China and the government often had problems with its procurement, but the domestically prepared vaccine would be readily available, both in the government-run immunisation programme and in the open market. The price is being negotiated.

 Hundreds of children die and thousands are left mentally and physically disabled because of JE and Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) in as many as 171 districts during monsoon. Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh becomes the epicentre as the BRD Hospital and Medical College here is the only hospital in the entire belt that can treat children for the disease; unfortunately, many a times, when the children are brought to this place from far-off areas, it is too late to save them.

 Vaccination is part of the government’s National Programme for Prevention and Control of JE/AES which has an outlay of Rs. 4,000 crore and was launched last year. This national programme, being coordinated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, is now being implemented in 60 priority districts for a period of five years from 2012-13 to 2016-17. Interventions are focussed on Assam, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal with the major activities being vaccination, public health intervention, improved case management, rehabilitation, improved nutrition, drinking water and sanitation. The National Institute of Virology also opened a unit in Gorakhpur.

 The new vaccine, JENVAC, available in single and double dose, has been manufactured by Genome Valley-based Bharat Biotech. JENVAC has shown superior safety and immunogenicity; the phase III trials showed 98.7 per cent protection 28 days after the first dose and 99.8 per cent sero-protection 28 days after the second dose. The results have shown that the vaccine can be administered as a single dose during epidemics for mass vaccination campaigns and also as a two-dose schedule during routine immunisation.


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