India’s health authorities may invest RPS5bn ($102m) to re-open three state run vaccine manufacturing firms in a bid to combat current shortages, according to reports in the country’s media.
The companies in question, Chennai-based BCG Lab, the Pasteur Institute of India (PII) in Coonoor and the Central Research Institue (CRI) in Kasauli, were closed last January for failing to comply with the good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards.
At the time the government said it planned to convert the businesses to testing facilities and eventually replace the lost vaccine manufacturing capacity with a dedicated production park being constructed in Chennai.
For the past year however the government has sought to compensate by increasing the amount of vaccines it buys from private suppliers both in India and overseas. Despite these efforts, there have been problems sourcing sufficient doses for state vaccination programmes.
Last month Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss told the Indian parliament that a shortage of vaccines affected the Universal Immunisation Programme “in some states.”
The shortage is particularly true in the case of yellow fever vaccine, for which CRI was the only South-East Asian producer, and BCG, the country’s entire supply of which was made by BCG Lab.
This government has faced severe criticism for the shortfall with some observers even suggesting that the original closure had benefited certain Indian vaccine makers preferentially, according to a report in the country’s Economic Times.
Less controversial criticism came from the Dehli-based non-profit organisation the Centre for Trade and Development (CTD). In an interview with the paper a CTD spokesman said “The government has admitted that there have been shortages of vaccines in a few states,” and asked how supplies could be secured prior to the opening of the Chennai centre in 2012.
This week an official from India’s health ministry appears to have provided an answer. The unnamed spokesperson told The Times of India that: “An expert committee, headed by the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI), has submitted its recommendations for the revival of the three companies.”
He went on to say that: “The ministry has already started rebuilding the three organisations. A new administrative system, which has resulted in the appointment of a director, is in place at PII.”