The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday announced that at the end of December 2017, it had prequalified the first conjugate vaccine for typhoid, Bharat Biotech's Typbar-TCV. "Typhoid conjugate vaccines (TCVs)," it says "are innovative products that have longer-lasting immunity than older vaccines, require fewer doses, and can be given to young children through routine childhood immunization programs. The fact that the vaccine has been prequalified by WHO means that it meets acceptable standards of quality, safety and efficacy. This makes the vaccine eligible for procurement by UN agencies, such as UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance."
Conjugate, without getting into jargon, in this case, is really about how the vaccine is designed to make it suitable for consumption by babies in the age bracket of 6 months to 2 years. It can also be administered on adults.
Typhoid is a serious and sometimes fatal disease spread through contaminated food and water. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain, and diarrhea or constipation. For millions of people living in low- and middle-income countries, typhoid is an ever present reality. Global estimates of the typhoid burden range between 11 and 20 million cases and between about 128 000 and 161 000 typhoid deaths annually. Poor communities and vulnerable groups, such as children, are often the most susceptible.
Earlier, Krishna Ella, chairman and managing director of Bharat Biotech said the company, which has been in the Indian market with this vaccine for the past three years, has been working on this vaccine for the last 14 years and invested its own resources to the tune of Rs 150 crore. "Until this vaccine, there was no vaccine available for children in the age bracket of 6 months to 2 years." He however, was not willing to share any numbers on the revenues, margins and the revenue contribution for the company from the "private market" sales of its products. That is other than what is supplied to global organizations and to government agencies. The vaccine sold in India at an MRP of Rs 1500 in the private market. Ask him, if it is not expensive and he says, could overtime reduce as the volumes pick up. Although he also wishes the government takes up typhoid vaccine in its public health programme. Given that, it is still not been done, he told Business Today that the private market, at the moment, was the only option available for the company to tap resources that can be generated to plough back into research and development. "We have never declared dividend so far and we are debt-free," he says.