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Hepatitis B scheme to cover 6 more AP districts

M. Somasekhar

HYDERABAD, April 2

THE Andhra Pradesh State health initiative to provide hepatitis B vaccination, as part of immunisation programme with substantial fund support from the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, will be expanded to six more districts during the ensuing financial year.

These districts would be four from coastal Andhra, including Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and one each from Rayalseema and Telengana, the other two regions of Andhra Pradesh. The hepatitis B vaccination programme launched on November 9, 2001 is currently being implemented in six districts. Four are Rayalseema districts — Chittoor, Cuddapah, Anantapur and Kurnool. Mahboobnagar and Krishna districts from Telengana and coastal Andhra are the other two.

The selection of these districts was done on the basis of baseline data collected from various blood banks about the susceptibility of populations to the hepatitis problem, according to Ms Nilam Sawhney, State Commissioner of Family Welfare.

In addition to this State-run programme, the Centre has also decided to support another hepatitis B vaccine project in the State. Under this, three more districts would be covered during the coming fiscal, she told Business Line.

The Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation extended Rs 125-crore support for the launch of the hepatitis B immunisation programme in the State. The project on hepatitis B vaccination ran into controversy last year, when a sort of corporate war broke out between two Hyderabad-based hepatitis B vaccine manufacturers.

Both these biotech firms — Bharat Biotech and Shanta Biotechnics - - manufacture low cost, recombinant hepatitis B vaccines. They were in the race to supply the vaccines required for the State Government initiative.

In the midst of allegations over the quality of the hepatitis B vaccine produced by Bharat Biotech, the State Government advised UNICEF, which is the leading organisation in the universal immunisation programme in Andhra Pradesh, to go in for import of the vaccine for the Melinda & Gates Foundation-funded programme.

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