Swine flu deaths in the country continue unabated with the death toll rising above 800 and the number of H1N1 infected cases inching towards 12,000. As swine flu claiming several lives not just in the city but in many other States, internationally renowned scientist and immunology expert Dr Rafi Ahmed from Atlanta emphasised on developing a universal vaccine to defend potentially dangerous influenza mutations.
Addressing the media at a programme organised by Bharat Biotech, Dr Rafi Ahmed said, “To help combat swine flu, a universal vaccine is the need of the hour that will help tackle the disease.”
Dr Rafi, Director of the Emory Vaccine Centre, underlined the need for widespread awareness programmes to ensure that people were aware of risk factors, causes and symptoms associated with the disease. “Developing a new vaccine every year to deal with different types of viral strains is a challenge we face today,” he said, adding that as the strains keep changing, the effectiveness of the vaccine to tackle swine flu outbreak was gradually reducing to an extent of 30 to 40 per cent.
Dr Rafi said the initiative was to develop influenza vaccine which would promise initial development results. If developed, he says, this vaccine would generate long-lived protective immunity.
Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman & Managing Director of Bharat Biotech, mentioned that the company had to destroy its swine flu vaccine stocks as they have a short shelf life. “To deal with outbreaks and have a swift turnaround time, Bharat Biotech plans to build an inventory of bulk vaccine, so that going forward the response time is reduced to a large extent. We also hope the government would reach out to companies like ours by procuring vaccines before such seasonal outbreak occurs,” Dr Ella said.