Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the launch of the vaccine, called Rotavac and developed by Bharat Biotech, a Hyderabad-based company. Rotavirus is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in children and in India it causes 80,000 deaths a year.
Rotavac will be administered in 3 oral doses and at about 60 rupees, or $1, it will significantly reduce cost of access to the vaccine, even undercutting the discount vaccines previously sold to India.
In the US, two different brands of the vaccine, RotaTeq and RotaRix, cost $75 and $106 per dose, respectively. Even when sold at a discount in India, they still come in at about $17 dollars per dose.
"Today's launch fortifies our mission to identify public health problems and make affordable life-saving vaccines to children wherever they are born," Chairman and Managing Director of Bharat, Krishna Ella, said in a statement.
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The vaccine is the result of a collaboration starting in 1985 involving parts of the the Indian government like the Ministry of Science and Technology, US government institutions such as the National institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and various Indian NGOs. The project also received funding from the Research Council of Norway, the UK Department of International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“This public-private partnership is an exemplary model of how to develop affordable technologies that save lives,” Bill Gates said in a press statement released in 2013.
Bharat Biotech spent $20 million on new facilities, and their manufacturing innovations went a long way to reduce costs at their facility which they say can produce 300 million doses of Rotavac annually, according to a statement.
Ella also indicated that the low-cost vaccine may be sold to other countries struggling with rotavirus.
"[W]e are in talks with some developing countries besides international agencies to export the vaccine but those opportunities will take a year and half probably to fructify," he said.