Eliminating malaria is Centre’s top priority, says Harsh Vardhan

Health Minister opens new vaccine production facility in Pune

September 10, 2019 01:14 am | Updated 01:14 am IST - Mumbai

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, founder of Serum Institute of India, felicitates Dr. Harsh Vardhan (right) at the inauguration of the institute’s new production plant in Pune.

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla, founder of Serum Institute of India, felicitates Dr. Harsh Vardhan (right) at the inauguration of the institute’s new production plant in Pune.

Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Monday said the elimination of malaria is the top priority of the Indian government. Dr. Vardhan said there are several diseases on the government’s radar and malaria is one of them.

At the inauguration of Serum Institute of India’s new production facility in Pune, Dr. Vardhan said, “We are actively working on elimination of malaria just like are we are working to end tuberculosis. Leprosy, filariasis, kala-azar is also in the line and malaria elimination is the top priority.”

While activists have been lamenting about the healthcare crisis in Jammu & Kashmir, Dr. Vardhan, in response to questions from journalists, said there are no issues that are specific to the newly formed Union Territory. He said, “In the next five years, there will be more health facilities in Jammu & Kashmir. Not only in terms of health but also in all fields there will be more facilities.”

‘Pride of the nation’

Spread across two million square feet in Manjri, the new production facility aims at catering to 150 countries across the European and American continents. Dr. Vardhan said Serum Institute of India was the pride of the nation. He said, “The vaccines they make are used not only to save the lives of children in India but also in other countries.”

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, Serum Institute of India, said the new facility is the largest in the world. He said, “The facility has a production capacity of half a billion doses, which will be manufactured annually. It will also help in creating 3,000 jobs in the next five years.” Nearly ₹3,000 crore has already been invested in the facility. The plant will become functional from November and focus on maximising the production of vaccines such as human papilloma virus and rotavirus vaccine.

The rotavirus vaccine, called Rotasil by Serum Institute of India, is the world’s first thermostable vaccine that can be stored in a cool and dry place like a strip of crocin or an over the counter cough syrup. The vaccine remains stable for up to 30 months at a temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. It comes in the form of a freeze-dried powder along with 2 ml of antacid liquid. At the time of administering the vaccine, health workers have to simply mix the powder with the liquid and feed babies at six, 10 and 14 weeks.

Mr. Poonawalla said, “Both in the Indian and international markets, Serum Institute of India aims to provide necessary vaccine cover with ease of access and at affordable prices. We take great pride in producing low cost and high-quality vaccines.” He said the Serum Institute of India’s goal is to effectively utilise resources to provide the best preventive healthcare solutions to the global population.

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