Sanofi, Shantha to supply polio vaccines for India's universal immunization scheme

India will join more than 110 countries that have introduced the injectable inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to their calendars. Sanofi ($SNY) and its Indian affiliate, Shantha Biotechnics, will supply polio vaccines to the Indian government via UNICEF. The vaccines will be used in India's universal immunization program.

Sanofi Pasteur has already supplied the government with its Imovax Polio vaccine, and Shantha will soon follow suit with its ShanIPV. While oral polio vaccines have previously been included in the nation's universal immunization program, the WHO recommends replacing it with the injected inactivated vaccine, The Hindu Business Line reported.

While India is officially polio-free, it borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, which still report polio cases.

Sanofi Pasteur CEO Olivier Charmeil

"With the introduction of IPV in their immunization schedule, India moves the world much closer to being polio-free," said Olivier Charmeil, president and CEO of Sanofi Pasteur, as quoted by The Hindu Business Line. "As a company deeply rooted in India, we are very proud that vaccines produced by both Sanofi Pasteur and Shantha will be used in this vital step towards a polio-free world. We have worked as partners of the government of India for many years, with this day in mind."

The goal is to eventually reach more than 20 million newborns annually through the program. The rollout is gradual, with last month being the deadline to introduce IPV in 17 high-risk states and four union territories, The Hindu Business Line reported. ShanIPV will be launched in 9 medium-risk states in January and 6 low-risk states in March.

In February, a team of scientists in the U.K. won a $674 million grant from the Gates Foundation and the WHO to develop an artificial polio vaccine. The existing oral polio vaccine uses a weakened version of the poliovirus, which can cause infection in a few people, who can then spread the virus to unvaccinated people. An artificial vaccine would not have this risk.

- here's the Hindu Business Line story

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