Rotavirus vaccine launched in India

Merck launched the vaccine on Wednesday after testing, becoming the second multinational to sell the drug after GSK started sales of its vaccine in 2008. Both the vaccines are expensive.

Rotaviruses are the primary agents of severe gastroenteritis in children under five, estimated to be the cause of nearly 40 per cent of hospitalisations for acute gastroenteritis. The vaccines are available for use in the private sector as rotavirus vaccination is not yet a part of the Indian universal immunisation programme.

Globally, 24 countries have the vaccine, while 22 have shown interest in introducing it.  “In India, it is likely that cost will be one of the major factors determining whether and when these vaccines come into the national immunisation program,” Gagandeep Kang, professor at the Christian Medical College in Vellore said.

“In countries where both vaccines are available the price has been comparable (about 200 USD for a 2 vaccine or 3 vaccine full course), but so far neither vaccine manufacturer has produced the vaccine on the scale required for India (an annual requirement would be 60 or 90 million doses),” she said.

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