There are options. India must choose with care JE vaccines can be sourced either from mouse brain or cultured tissue cells. A single dose of mouse-derived vaccine made by the Central Research Institute (CRI), Kasauli, costs about Rs 50. As the numbers to be vaccinated are high, the cost is a worry. Japan, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam also use the mouse brain method.
A vaccine developed in China is cheaper and requires one dose, as against the conventional three. But the World Health Organization hasn’t yet approved it. It uses hamster kidney cells — kidneys are bigger than the brain and are twice as many in an animal; hamsters are bigger than mice, so they provide more vaccine.
Tissue culture-derived vaccines are even cheaper. Such a vaccine was first produced in 1967 in China, and millions of doses are used each year there. The country is now replacing this with an attenuated vaccine. This has live, but weakened, viruses to create resistance. Licensed in 1988, it has been given to over 200 million children. Two doses give 97.5 per cent protection for five years.
The National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi, has also developed a tissue culture-derived JE vaccine. It has transferred this technology to Panacea Biotech, which is expected to come out with a product in two years.