SII Launches World’s Most Affordable Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine For Children

On 28th December, 2020, Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, announced the launch of the world’s most affordable Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in India that aims to provides protection against 10 variants of pneumococcus bacteria causing pneumonia, meningitis, ear, and blood infections in children.

SII has priced pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, branded as Pneumosil at $3 (Rs. 220/-) per dose for public market, and a little over $10 (Rs. 732/-) per dose for the private market. In India, three doses are required for the full PCV vaccination.

PCV is imported and sold in India by Pfizer and GSK. While the Pfizer vaccine Prevener 13 is sold at Rs. 3,801/- per dose, the GSK vaccine – Synflorix, is sold at Rs. 2,195/- per dose, making these the costliest vaccines in the child immunisation schedule. Prevener 13 provides protection against 13 variants of pneumococcus bacteria, as compared to 10 by Synflorix.

The high cost of the vaccine had the Indian government delay the inclusion of PCV in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), meant to vaccinate children free of cost. The launch of SII’s affordable PCV will allow the Indian government to introduce this vaccine as part of UIP.

Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer of SII, said the company had a capacity to produce 100 million doses of PCV per annum. SII has started shipping the vaccine to UNICEF, for supplying to child immunisation programmes in various low and middle-income countries. The PCV has been prequalified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Poonawalla said India too is in the process of placing order for 20 million-30 million doses of the vaccine and that it would help it to prevent up to nearly 60% of infant deaths in next two to three years, as per coverage. Pneumosil has been developed through a collaboration between SII, PATH, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, spanning over a decade.

Pneumococcal disease is a significant contributor to the under-five mortality rate worldwide. Annually, an estimated 71% of deaths in children are caused by pneumonia and 57% by severe pneumonia cases. In India every year nearly 67,800 children, under the age of 5, die from pneumococcal diseases. Recognizing its widespread fatality, the WHO recommends the inclusion of PCV in routine childhood immunization programmes in all countries.

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