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The Rise of the Indian Vaccine Industry

May 13,2024

A groundbreaking study soon to be published in a reputed journal reveals that global vaccination efforts have saved a staggering 154 million lives over the past 50 years—an equivalent of 6 lives every minute, every year. Among these, a remarkable 101 million were infants, showcasing the profound impact of immunization on the youngest lives.

Over the past half-century, vaccination against 14 diseases, including Measles, Polio, and Tuberculosis, has played a pivotal role in reducing infant mortality rates by 40 per cent worldwide, and by over 50 per cent in the African Region alone.

The world recently commemorated the 225th anniversary of Edward Jenner’s groundbreaking smallpox vaccination in 1796, the world’s first vaccine developed against contagious smallpox. Vaccines stand as one of the most remarkable innovations in human health history, transforming dreaded diseases into preventable diseases.

It’s worth mentioning that just six years after the discovery of the Smallpox vaccine, India received its first shipment of the vaccine in May 1802. The inaugural vaccination took place on June 14, 1802, in Bombay, administered to three-year-old Anna Dusthall. During those days, India’s vaccine reserves leaned heavily on imports from Great Britain for its vaccine supply,

However, growing demand for Smallpox vaccine resulted in a shortage of vaccine and concerns over British personnel deaths, forced the British-Indian Government to establish research efforts that dated back to 1832 in Bombay and involved animal testing for lymph in Madras in 1879. In 1892, India passed the Compulsory Vaccination Act to ensure broader coverage against Smallpox to seek alternative methods to enhance sustained vaccine supply.

In the 1890s, India grappled with a double calamity: a rampant Cholera epidemic sweeping through Bengal and neighbouring regions, compounded by a Smallpox outbreak. In a bold move, the Government of India authorized Dr. Waldemar Mordecai Haffkine to conduct Cholera vaccination trials in 1893. Dr. Haffkine’s groundbreaking tests in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, not only demonstrated the efficacy of his vaccine but also heralded a new chapter in India’s fight against infectious diseases.

Followed by Cholera, a devastating Plague outbreak in 1896, triggered the urgent implementation of the Epidemic Act of 1896—a pivotal legislation that still stands firm today. The following year, in 1897, Dr. Haffkine shattered barriers by crafting India’s first Plague vaccine, marking a monumental breakthrough. This triumph paved the way for the inception of the Plague Laboratory in Bombay, later renamed 1925 as Haffkine Institute.

The first Pasteur Institute of India emerged in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, in 1900, later the institute merged with the Central Research Institute in 1939. Meanwhile, the Pasteur Institute of Southern India (PISI) was established in Coonoor in 1907. PISI played a pivotal role, producing a neural tissue Anti-Rabies vaccine in 1907 and hosting the WHO Influenza Laboratory in 1957. However, despite these strides, colonial practices hindered Indian scientists from fully contributing to their intellectual legacy.

Upon India’s independence in 1947, vaccine research and development lagged behind global standards. Nevertheless, fuelled by unwavering determination, India embarked on a transformative journey, striving for self-reliance. A pivotal moment emerged in 1948 when the King Institute in Madras (Chennai) established the BCG Vaccine Laboratory, igniting a new era in Indian healthcare.

Source: Healthworld

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