New Delhi: China and the US have approved an H1N1 flu vaccine for use starting next month. The UK also expects to be on track with October immunisations, though European health authorities are yet to give the final go-ahead pending trials.
India though, will have to wait at least till January after clinical trials are done here to check safety and efficacy.
The health ministry has invited pharma giants Novartis, GSK and Baxter to start trials on 800 healthy Indians and if these are successful, their vaccines will be in the market early next year at a cost of around Rs 1,000.
The Health Ministry has also pumped in Rs 10 crore to each of the three Indian pharma companies to develop an indigenous vaccine, but don't expect to see this in the market before next March.
The good news however, is that the Serum Institute of India (SII) has a vaccine ready that is undergoing animal tests.
Senior Director Vaccines, at SII, Dr Rajeev Dhere says "We are now about to enter in toxicology and human clinical trials for H1N1. This study would be started by the first week of October and terminated by the second week of November."
SII along with Panacea Biotech and Bharat Biotech has scheduled human clinical trials by the end of November.
But why is India lagging behind other countries?
Drug expert and editor MIMS, Dr CM Gulati says, "There is no delay. For US and Europe it is easy as they have been making flu vaccines season after season, so it's no big deal for them to deviate from H3N2 to H1N1. In India, we have never manufactured the influenza vaccines for mass usage."
Until a vaccine is ready in India - and even abroad where only the most vulnerable will be front-runners for immunisation, given limited availability - doctors advise basic hygiene precautions to fight the flu.