H1N1 virus claims 260 lives in Maharashtra but state health department yet to procure vaccine

State health authorities are yet to procure a vaccine against the new strain. This, despite a strong recommendation by the state committee, in March this year, to prevent communicable diseases. Pune region has the highest number of deaths — 62 — this year.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published:June 28, 2017 9:44 am

As many as 260 persons have died across Maharashtra due to the H1N1 virus, but state health authorities are yet to procure a vaccine against the new strain. This, despite a strong recommendation by the state committee, in March this year, to prevent communicable diseases. Pune region has the highest number of deaths — 62 — this year.

Dr Subhash Salunkhe, chairman of the state expert committee to prevent communicable diseases, said vaccination against the virus was one of its major recommendations. “In 2015, there was a resurgence of the pandemic virus, and it was pointed out that public awareness and education measures should be continued in optimum mode,” said Salunkhe, adding, “We had strongly recommended the use of vaccine in March”.

However, Dr Satish Pawar, director of Health, Maharashtra, told The Indian Express that the previous vaccine had at least 80 per cent efficacy, and it was still being administered. “It is the high-risk group of people who are currently being immunised. At least 30,000 persons in the high-risk group, including pregnant women, diabetic persons and others, are being given the injectible vaccine,” said Pawar. “We are floating e-tenders and the vaccine against the A-Michigan strain should be available by August 1,” he added.

There was a slight change in the pandemic H1N1 virus — an antigenic drift — and experts from the National Institute of Virology had said it could be reason for the rising number of cases. While NIV ruled out any major mutation of the virus, experts at the state-level committee to prevent communicable diseases made a strong case for immunising people.

According to the Acting Joint Director of Health, Maharashtra, M S Diggikar till June 26 this year, there have been 260 deaths and 1,663 cases of H1N1 across the state.

In 2016, there were 26 deaths and 82 cases, while in 2015 there were 905 deaths and 8,583 cases. In 2014, there were 43 deaths and 115 cases, while 2013 saw 149 deaths and 643 cases.

On Tuesday, the PMC registered one more death – of a 41-year-old man from Latur. Health officials pointed that of the 62 deaths, 18 were from Pune city. In Pune city, as many as 310 persons have tested positive for H1N1 virus and Tamiflu, an anti-viral medicine, was given to 7,167 persons from January till date.

A total of 24 deaths were registered by the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation and 20 deaths by Pune Rural health officials.

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has come out with one lakh doses of an intra-nasal vaccine against the A Michigan strain of H1N1 virus. However, there have been no takers for it.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer of the Serum Institute of India, told The Indian Express that “it was a shame that nobody wants to take a preventable and painless vaccine and instead suffer hospitalisation, even when there is a solution”.

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