Only vaccine lab for Monkey Fever struggles to cope with high demand

The lab, which produced around 35,000 vials of vaccines in January last year, has been asked to produce 50,000 vaccines in December.

Published: 13th January 2019 06:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th January 2019 06:35 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: The Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHVB), the only lab in the country that produces vaccines to prevent Kyasanur Forest disease (KFD) or Monkey Fever, which is as contagious as ebola and more fatal than dengue, is overburdened as it has been asked to increase the production. 

“We have been asked to augment production of the vaccine as KFD infection is no more limited to Karnataka but has spread to in Kerala, Maharashtra and Goa too. The demand is likely to increase in the years to come. We are under immense pressure,” said Dr Shobarani, Joint Director, IAHVB.
The lab, according to sources, is in dire need of more facilities and is finding it extremely difficult to handle the increase in orders. Though the lab with just one scientist reserved for making KFD 
vaccines is managing to complete the orders, the staffers say they are overburdened and need more equipments in our lab,” a scientist said. 

Meanwhile, officials claim that there have been several discussions with the Health Department to provide more staff to make these kind of vaccines. The lab, which is actually set up to prepare animal vaccines is now forced to make human vaccines. 

“We are actually into animal-related vaccine production, but because of requests from the state governments of Kerala, Pune, Goa and Karnataka, we have no option left but make vaccines. We are working towards saving human lives,” said Shobarani.Interestingly, the Health Department had promised manpower and did send some people. But reportedly they were all not trained to work in this area. “They never stayed here. It is a very special work. They saw the work and chickened out. They stayed only for 15 days,” said an official at IAHVB.

The lab, which produced around 35,000 vials of vaccines in January last year, has been asked to produce 50,000 vaccines in December. In just four months, the requirement from 82,000 in June 2018 went up to 1,32,600 vials so far. The demand will increase further. 

The fever is contracted from ticks, which attain maturity after the monsoon. As a result, the infection spreads rapidly between December and May. So far, vaccination drives were undertaken in the affected areas during this period. Now, vaccination drives will be held round-the-year. Earlier vaccines used to be administered only to those between 7 and 65 years of age. Now everyone residing in those regions have been asked to get vaccinated. Hence, there is a need to stock up the vaccine at all primary health centres in the affected areas.   

Separate lab needed
Although fewer people get infected with this virus each year (about 300-500 against 10-15,000 for dengue), it has a much higher mortality rate than dengue.  The National Institute of Virology and experts are now working towards setting up a separate lab for testing and ensure vaccine production. So far, samples are being sent to Pune for testing. 

The virus
It spreads through ticks found in the forests of the Western Ghats 
Humans can get directly infected

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