As four cases of Monkeypox virus have already been found in India and World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring it a global public health emergency, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla on Tuesday said that he is exploring the possibility of importing smallpox vaccine in bulk "in an emergency situation", according to NDTV report.
Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease caused by the monkeypox virus, which belongs to the same family of viruses that causes smallpox.
In India, a 34-year-old man from Delhi with no history of foreign travel tested positive for monkeypox on Sunday, taking the country's tally of cases to four. Three cases of monkeypox were earlier reported in Kerala.
"SII is in talks with Novovax to develop a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine for monkeypox," Adar Poonawalla told the news channel.
Smallpox vaccines from Denmark's Bavarian Nordic could be in India in three months, Poonawalla said, adding that Serum Institute has the capacity to bulk manufacture smallpox vaccines under license.
"We are talking to Novovax. We really need to see whether there will be a lot of demand or whether in three to four months it fizzles out," the SII chief added.
"It could take more than a year to make a vaccine from scratch," he said on lines of theory.
Further he said that it was "not a mystery" that monkeypox cases were coming up. "It has been around for decades," he said. The only difference was that the global health system was more trained and equipped to detect and tackle infectious diseases.
"You need special containment facilities to handle that vaccine. We are not equipped in India to do that at the moment. That can change...we have some facilities. We are talking to our partners...we could potentially make an mRNA candidate for monkeypox," Poonawalla said.
The Serum Institute manufacturers Covishield, the Indian Covid vaccine.
Meanwhile, in the wake of Monkeypox cses, Maharashtra and UP govt have asked the district authorities to stay alert and take strict measures while international travellers arriving in Delhi with monkeypox symptoms such as high fever and back pain will be sent to the LNJP Hospital from the airport.
The Delhi government has asked district authorities and officials concerned to adhere to the Centre's guidelines on management of the infection, which also state that referral arrangements from airport/port to identified link hospital need to be established or strengthened.