Due to more than a year of shortages of anti-rabies vaccine at least five states like Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh have called for certain measures, so the center will consider asking manufacturers to seek NOCs before exports.
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As production of anti-rabies vaccines is in surplus demand in India, over 30% of the production is exported to countries in order to fetch a higher price, as a result, causing a shortage in India.
A senior official conveyed “We have already asked companies to ramp up production and curtail exports. However, states are still reporting a shortage.” According to an official source in order to deal with the crisis, the center will construct barriers to restrict exports by asking companies to seek a “no-objection” certificate from the drug regulator prior to exports.
In the meantime, the government is expecting supplies to improve, by following the acquisition of a multinational unit by a domestic company which manufactures the vaccine. The official also quoted that “This company has already started production but it will take at least six months before the first batch hits the market.”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), India is endemic for rabies accounting for 36% of the world’s deaths. Where the exact burden of rabies in India is not fully known, estimates show it causes over 20,000 deaths every year – the highest in the world.
The disease can develop if bitten or scratched by a rabid mammal, such as a monkey or a bat. Where dogs contribute up to 99% of all rabies transmitted to humans and children are the usual victims said WHO.
Every year in India, about 15 million people are bitten by animals, mostly dogs. About 30-60% of reported rabies cases and deaths in India occur in children under the age of 15 years as bites often go unrecognized and unreported.
Satish Chandra, Punjab’s additional chief secretary in a letter quoted to the health secretary Preeti Sudan last month that “There are about 1,20,000 cases of a dog bite in a year and June, July & August are the peak months.” Chandra also said that there is an “acute shortage of anti-rabies vaccine” in the state and asked the Centre to take up the matter with suppliers.
There is a shortage of anti-rabies vaccines of about 20-80% almost in all states. Although there are around five manufacturers of the vaccine in India including major drugmakers like Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute, and Indian Immunologicals.
According to Government estimates, the five companies together manufacture 50 million doses of anti-rabies vaccine in India against a demand of 48 million. But these vaccines going to other countries causing hospitals and chemists across the country an acute shortage of anti-rabies vaccine for over a year now.
The vaccine costs around Rs 300 in the Indian market. However, it is provided free of cost in government hospitals. The victims must be treated within 10 days of infection that is considered as an effective way of protecting people. But due to the shortage of anti-rabies vaccine has raised concerns among both the medical fraternity as well as the government.
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