Vaccine makers to lobby for higher immunization coverage

Hyderabad, Sep 16 (Calcutta Tube) Vaccine manufacturers in India Wednesday formed a pressure group to lobby for increasing the immunization coverage in India, which is lower than even in the African countries.

Five leading manufacturers announced the formation of Vaccine Manufacturers’ Association (VAM) which will work as the mouthpiece of the Indian vaccine industry.

A representative told a news conference here that they would urge the government to increase public healthcare aid which is currently one percent of the GDP and to add new vaccines to the list of vaccines under the national immunization programme.

The association, which has brought together Bharat Biotech, Biological E, Panacea Biotech, Serum Institute and Shantha Biotechnics, will urge the government to add new vaccines to the programme.

Krishna Ella, President of VAM and CMD of Bharat Biotech, pointed out that the number of vaccines in India’s national immunization programme remained at five since 1975 while countries like Brazil with less population had 15 vaccines in their national programmes.

The vaccine manufacturers pointed out that while they were exporting vaccines for measles to 140 countries the same were not being utilized in India.

‘The immunization coverage in India is 50 to 53 percent, which is much lower than even the African countries who have achieved the UN Millennium Development Goal with a coverage of 80 percent,’ said S.S. Jadhav, executive director, Serum Institute of India Limited.

Even a small country like Bangladesh has 95 percent immunization coverage, he said.

The vaccine manufacturers said the low coverage was despite the fact that most of the vaccines produced by them cost less than the price of a cup of tea. They pointed out that their 90 percent business came from exports while only 10 percent vaccines were used in India.

India is presently spending $100 million on vaccine purchase, which is much lower than $175 million spent by a small country like Pakistan.

The manufacturers suggested that India spend 10 percent of the healthcare budget on vaccines to ensure that every child is vaccinated and to save millions of lives from infectious diseases.

The association would urge the government to strengthen vaccine research and delivery mechanism.

Stating that bureaucratic and political interference was hindering the efforts to increase immunization coverage and the growth of vaccine industry, the association demanded autonomy to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), the Central Research Institute (CRI), Kasauli, and the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC).

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