A new vaccine has the potential to save thousands of children in Japan. Chinese scientists developed a vaccine for Japanese encephalitis that is inexpensive and easily accessible. Encephalitis is a neurological disease spread via mosquitos that kills tens of thousands of people every year. This vaccine will be China’s first vaccine the World Health Organization pre-qualified for distribution.
The vaccine is unique in that it will cost significantly less than other Japanese encephalitis vaccines on the market, can be administered to infants, and is effective with just one dose. As a result, it will be available for thousands of children in the Russian Federation’s southeast as well as South and Southeast Asia. Japanese encephalitis cannot be treated once the disease has begun; however, with the vaccine, it is completely preventable.
The World Health Organization announced that the success of the vaccine comes as a result of a long and productive relationship with Chinese vaccine manufacturers. WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan explained the importance of the vaccine: “This is a welcome development both in the fight to protect children in developing countries from JE and in the future availability of vaccines more generally, as China is now producing vaccines up to WHO standards. There is a huge potential for vaccine manufacture in China and we hope to see more and more Chinese vaccines become WHO pre-qualified. The whole world will benefit.”
As Dr. Chan explained, the implications of Chinese drug manufacturers seeking pre-qualification of their drugs could mean a significant increase in life-saving vaccines for developing countries. Over 9 million children were vaccinated in India during the first year a Japanese encephalitis vaccine became available. Since then, millions more have been vaccinated and the introduction of this new vaccine has the potential to reach millions of children.
– Mary Penn