The swine flu death toll in India has crossed the 600-mark in less than two months. And yet, no one is talking about prevention on a large scale,” said Serum Institute of India Executive Director Adar Poonawalla, speaking to BusinessLine .

The Centre and States need to do much more to make people aware about preventive measures such as vaccination, he added.

The discussion is around things like masks “as though we are living in the stone ages”, said Poonawalla, pointing at how it is standard practice in developed countries to take the flu vaccine.

Vaccine wasted

In 2010, Serum Institute had launched its indigenously developed intra-nasal vaccine, Nasovac, to prevent H1N1 or swine flu.

But the Government did not pick up the product, and it had to be thrown away.

“We continued to make the product in small quantities if there was a need and threw it away, since there was no demand,” Poonawalla says, adding that enquiries are now coming in, as the death toll from swine flu has been rising. 

The Central government estimates that the country has seen over 9,000 cases and 600 deaths since the beginning of this year.

The trivalent vaccine currently made by Serum Institute covers three different strains, including the prevalent active stain, he said.

Distributors have begun asking for the product, which is priced at about ₹200 per dose, he said.

People interested in taking the vaccine must ask their doctor, said Poonawalla, adding that Serum Institute would ramp up availability based on demand.

Meanwhile, Jagdish Prasad, Director-General of Health Services, said that there was no shortage of vaccines. He added that that there are no plans to recommend vaccination for the general public, but only for frontline health-workers.

Swine flu prevention

“For the general public, if they come into contact with a person with swine flu, a dose of 1 tablet (of tamiflu) per day is enough for prevention,” he said.

Prasad noted that vaccines provide protection against swine flu for only a year.

Meanwhile, Tamiflu-maker Roche has said it is not importing and marketing Oseltamivir Capsules IP 75mg (Tamiflu) at present and that it currently did not hold any inventory of the product in the country.

“However, since this drug is used for treatment of influenza and, in view of the reported pandemic-like situation, we have filed applications for licences to cater to urgent requirements,” a spokesperson for the company said.

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