First vaccine of the world was developed against Japanese Encephalitis (JE) using the Indian strain of virus. National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune offered the strain of JE virus to Bharat Biotech. This JE virus was gathered from Kolar in Karnataka. Bharat Biotech had submitted results from final human trials to Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) so that it could have marketing clearance.
The vaccine is an injectable one and offers protection rate of more than 90 percent. It can be used for age group of 1-15 years. The application has been sent for marketing approval to DCGI. Clinical data about the same would also be put forward to Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for reviewing which would take place in January 2013. The scientific committee of ICMR would provide technical support to government in context of the effectiveness of this JE vaccine, after which decision to introduce this in public health programme would be taken.
Country Programme Leader of PATH (the organisation which plays a crucial role in conducting the vaccination of JE in India in 15 states as well as 118 districts since 2006), informed that apart from providing protection against Indian strains of JE, the vaccine would also be effective against Nakayama strain (the strain from Japan) as well as Biken strain (which circulates in the Asian countries).
Currently, India imports the stock of JE vaccine from National Biotech Group of China. The arrival of this indigenous Indian vaccination will help in protection of the Indian population against the disease which is largely growing in the country.
What is Japanese Encephalitis (JE)?
JE is the mosquito-borne virus which mainly affects the CNS or Central Nervous System. It can be transmitted to human beings if infected mosquito bites. Mosquitoes in turn are affected when they feed on domestic pigs that carry this virus.
JE usually affects children who are below 15 years of age. Around 25 percent affected children usually die and among those who survive, 30-40 percent suffer from mental and physical impairment. In 2011, it was reported that JE had occurred in 135 districts in 17 states of India.
Though there is a Chinese vaccine called SA14 which was developed in 1990, but there are concerns about its safety. Scientists believe that live attenuated virus in that vaccine could increase in vector while also recombining with the local virus leading to creation of viruses that have unknown characteristics.
Back in 2003, India had imported 12 million doses of Chinese anti-JE vaccine. These were used to immunise 9.3 million children from 11 districts in 4 states. The ministry had then declared that there is a requirement of 115 lakh to 350 lakh doses of JE vaccine each year in India.