Chennai, August 21 (Express News Service): The first exclusive vaccine for leprosy that has been developed indigenously will be launched in a few weeks, the Indian Health Minister, Jagat Prakash Nadda, said here on Saturday.
Five districts in Bihar and Gujarat will be chosen for the pilot phase, he said.
The vaccine, Mycobacterium Indicus Pranii (MIP), will be administered as a preventive measure to people living in close contact with those infected by the bacteria that affects over 100,000 more persons every year.
“This will be the first such mass vaccination program in the world,” Nadda said at the National Awareness Convention on Leprosy organized by the Sri Ramakrishna Math, Central Leather Research Institute and Saksham.
“Trials have shown that the vaccine could bring down the number of cases by 60 per cent in just three years. It also expedites the cure rate if given to people with skin lesions,” said the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Soumya Swaminathan.
MIP has received the approval of the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and the US-FDA.
Minister Nadda said the government has already begun a mass leprosy screening program. In Phase-I, over 75 million people were screened in 50 high prevalence districts. As many as 65,000 suspected cases were detected, from which 5,000 were confirmed for leprosy. They are now being treated, he added.
Phase-II will be launched in September, in which 163 districts 20 states including Erode district in Tamil Nadu, one of the hot spots for leprosy in the country, will be covered. The persons diagnosed also will be given a dose of antibiotic Rifampicin, Nadda said.
India is the worst affected country. If the pilot phase shows satisfactory results, the program will be implemented in other high-prevalence districts across the country, Soumya Swaminathan said.