CHENNAI: The first exclusive vaccine for leprosy that was developed at home will be launched in a few weeks, said Union Health Minister Jagat Prakash Nadda here on Saturday, adding that five districts in Bihar and Gujarat will be chosen for the pilot phase.
The vaccine, mycobacterium indicus Pranii (MIP), will be administered as a preventive measure for people living in close contact with those infected by the bacteria that affects over one lakh people every year. This will be the first such mass vaccination programme in the world, Nadda added, speaking at the National Awareness Convention on Leprosy organised 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 cure rate if given to people with skin lesions,” said the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Soumya Swaminathan.
It is the founder-director of the National Institute of Immunology (NII), GP Talwar, who developed this first indigenous vaccine exclusively for leprosy – the ones used till now were multi-purpose one for several diseases. MIP has received the approval from the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) and the US-FDA.
Minister Nadda said the government has already begun a mass screening programme. In Phase-I, over 7.5 crore people were screened in 50 high prevalence districts. As many as 65,000 suspected cases were detected, in which 5,000 were confirmed for leprosy. They are now being treated, he added.
Phase-II will be launched in September, during which 163 districts 20 states including Erode district in Tamil Nadu, one of the hot spot for leprosy in the country, will be covered. The persons diagnosed also will be given a dose of antibiotic Rifampicin, Nadda said.
With about 60 per cent of the leprosy cases reported globally, India is the country that is affected the most. If the pilot phase shows satisfactory results, the programme will be implemented in other high-prevalence districts across the country, Soumya Swaminathan said.