The shortage of anti-rabies vaccine in certain parts of the country has prompted the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) to step-in. Manufactures and marketers have been asked by the Health Ministry to rush stocks to the areas where the shortage has been reported.
“Taking cognisance of shortage of vaccine, NPPA has held repeated stakeholder consultations. Manufacturers and marketers have informed that lack of firm orders by State governments and late payments led to the shortage,” said a senior NPPA official.
He added that the matter was referred to Health Ministry which has advised State governments to issue quantity based tenders and place long-term firm orders with specific quantity and supply schedule.
Deaths in India
India accounts for more than one-third of the world’s rabies deaths. Each year, as many as 20,000 people die due to the vaccine-preventable fatality. India has a population of 30 million stray dogs which cause 96% of rabies in humans.
According to the Health Ministry’s data, India is the hotbed of human rabies. “However, the disease is 100% preventable by timely post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and correct use of rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins,” said a senior health official.
Rabies is caused by RNA virus that is present in the saliva of rabid animal. It is invariably transmitted following a bite of a rabid animal that leads to deposition of the saliva and the virus in the wound. The death invariably occurs in four days to two weeks due to cardio-respiratory failure. The time interval between the bite and occurrence of symptoms/signs of rabies i.e. incubation period varies from four days to two years or rarely even more.
Once, the virus enters the nervous system it becomes inaccessible to rabies vaccines and death in inevitable. Thus, it is important to remove the virus from the wound as early as possible by immediately washing the wound with water and soap followed by application of virucidal antiseptics that reduce / eliminate chances of nerve infection.
Meanwhile, a Health Ministry official confirmed that they had previously held talks with manufacturers of rabies vaccine, which include Bharat Biotech, India Immunologicals and the Serum Institute of India, asking them to ensure that the domestic needs are catered to before exporting it.