The Health Ministry is grappling with paucity of meningitis vaccines for Haj pilgrims as the only firm manufacturing them was asked to stop production last year after contamination was detected in their oral polio vaccines.
According to sources in the Health Ministry, the only firm which manufactured the vaccines and provided it to the government, was asked to stop production of all human vaccines in September last year after type-2 polio virus contamination was detected in oral polio vaccines.
Following the ban on the Ghaziabad-based pharmaceutical company Biomed Pvt Ltd, the ministry is now looking for options to arrange the vaccines in time for vaccinating the pilgrims, the sources said.
Around 1.27 lakh people are expected to go for the annual Haj pilgrimage in July this year for which the ministry will have to arrange for at least 1.47 lakh doses.
Extra vaccines are kept as some are rendered ineffective in the process of delivery to the states.
The Health Ministry is already in talks with two firms which import the vaccines, the sources said.
Those going to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of Umra or pilgrimage are required to submit a certificate of vaccination with the quadrivalent (ACYW 135) vaccine against meningitis, proving the vaccine was administered no more than 3 years ago and no less than 10 days before arrival in the country.
Biomed Pvt Ltd was a licensed indigenous manufacturer for Meningococcal Polysaccharide vaccine while two firms M/s Sanofi Pastuer India Pvt Lt, Mumbai and M/s GlaxoSmithkline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Mumbai are importers for quadrivalent Meningcoccal Meningitis Conjugate Vaccine in the country.
"Earlier with Biomed Pvt Ltd providing the vaccines, government spent Rs 250 for each vaccine but now if they have to buy from companies which import the vaccines, they may have to shell out around Rs 1500 per dose. The Health Ministry is already in talks with the two firms which import the vaccines," the sources said.
Biomed Pvt Ltd was directed to stop the manufacture, sale and distribution of all human vaccines including the Quadrivalent Meningococcal Meningitis vaccine after type-2 polio virus was found in the sewage and stool samples in Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh in September last year.
The polio drops were sent for testing which confirmed that some of them were contaminated with type-2 virus, a strain believed to have been eradicated in 2016.
The managing director of Biomed Pvt Ltd., which was supplying polio vaccines for only government-run immunisation programmes, was arrested after the central drug regulator filed a complaint and an FIR was registered.
The destruction of traces of type-2 polio virus was ordered by the central drug regulator to all manufacturers in 2016.
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