Indian Scientists has unveiled the first completely indigenous and affordable vaccine to prevent severe rotavirus diarrhoea, which kills children under the age of five in India every year. A two day International Symposium on “Rotavirus Vaccines For India- The Evidence And The Promise” began in New Delhi. This social innovation partnership showcases how our science and biomedical system is maturing. What we have added to our know-how and capacity in ways that will pay dividends for the development of future solutions.
The Phase-III clinical trial demonstrated for the first time that the India-developed rotavirus vaccine ROTAVAC is efficacious in preventing severe rotavirus diarrhoea in low-resource settings in India. ROTAVAC significantly reduced severe rotavirus diarrhoea by more than half—56 percent during the first year of life, with protection continuing into the second year of life. Moreover, the vaccine also showed impact against severe diarrhoea of any cause. Rotavac is an oral vaccine and is administered to infants in a three-dose course at the ages of 6, 10 and 14 weeks. It is given alongside routine immunisations in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) vaccines recommended at these ages.
The vaccine was developed through a unique social innovation partnership that brought together the experience and expertise of Indian and international researchers as well as the public and private sectors. The vaccine originated from an attenuated (weakened) strain of rotavirus that was isolated from an Indian child at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi in 1985-86. Since then, partners have included DBT, Bharat Biotech, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Stanford University School of Medicine, and the nongovernmental organization, PATH. Dr M.K. Bhan, who recently completed his service as DBT Secretary, was tireless in fostering the social innovation partnership and ensuring the highest standards for the vaccine.
The vaccine development partnership has been supported by DBT, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Research Council of Norway, and the UK Department for International Development. Bharat Biotech invested important technical, manufacturing, and financial resources towards vaccine development.
Rotavirus is responsible for approximately 4,53,000 child deaths due to diarrhoea globally each year. It is particularly threatening in India where-according to a recent study-around 1,00,000 children die each year from severe diarrhoea and dehydration caused by rotavirus. India accounts for 22 per cent of the estimated global deaths from diarrhoea-causing rotavirus.