A vaccine to prevent avian flu developed by a research institute in the central Indian city of Bhopal could be available for 35 paise per dose, amounting to less than a cent, official sources said.
Developed by the High Security Animal Disease Laboratory (HSADL), it is the first vaccine against avian flu in the country.
HSADL, which has the technique for identifying the avian influenza virus among poultry, tested thousands of bird samples, including droppings of migratory birds, after avian flu (H5N1) hit some parts of western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra earlier this year.
The country suffered losses estimated at Rs.7 billion ($150 million) with over one million bird culled and about 1.5 million eggs as well as several thousand tonnes of feed destroyed, according to official sources.
"The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) entrusted us with the job of developing the vaccine soon after the first outbreak of the disease this February and also provided us with Rs.80 million promptly to help us accomplish the challenging task," said HSADL Joint Director Dr. H.K. Pradhan.
Led by Pradhan, a special team of scientists swung into action, toiling day and night on the vaccine and developed it in less than six months.
"The cost of the vaccine has been worked out at 27 paise per dose. It is expected to go up to 35 paise, including the trader's profit and cost of transportation. But it will be for the company manufacturing the vaccine to decide on the selling price," Pradhan told IANS.
"We had the viruses collected during this year's outbreak and the cell lines taken five years ago," said Pradhan. "The vaccine can be used immediately after an outbreak to control the spread of the virus as well as for vaccination in anticipation of an outbreak.
"However, vaccination before an outbreak is generally not advisable as the vaccine has its own limitations. But there is little chance of bird flu occurring after vaccination as the vaccine uses a killed virus to elicit good immune response."
"The immune response is good and the protection offered by the vaccine has been found to be above 90 percent. The duration of protection should last up to six months for hens. For a broiler it needs to be administered only once," he claimed.
The achievement has been followed by Chinese researchers developing a bird flu vaccine for human use.
The vaccine, jointly developed by China's ministry of science and technology, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and Beijing Sinovac Biotech Co., a Beijing-based pharmaceutical company, was declared safe Monday.
The 120 participants who were vaccinated have showed no serious adverse reactions, the researchers said.