EVEN AS lumpy skin disease has already killed nearly 1 lakh cattle and infected over 20 lakh animals across 15 states, governments are having to depend on just two companies for the vaccine whose use has been authorised against the virus.
At present, Ahmedabad-based Hester Biosciences Ltd and the National Dairy Development Board’s Hyderabad-based subsidiary Indian Immunologicals Ltd (IIL) manufacture goatpox vaccine.
Goatpox, sheeppox and lumpy skin disease viruses belong to the same capripoxvirus genus. The vaccines developed for the first two, and already being commercially produced in the country, offer up to 60-70 per cent cross-protection against lumpy skin disease in cattle.
But as of now, only goatpox vaccine has been authorised for administering against lumpy skin disease. In an advisory issued to states on September 2, 2021, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) said that “cattle and buffaloes should be vaccinated with available Goat pox vaccine”. At the time of authorisation, Hester Biosciences was the sole manufacturer of goatpox vaccine in the country; IIL launched its goatpox vaccine in December 2021.
On the other hand, there are a dozen or so manufacturers of sheeppox vaccine, including six state-owned manufacturers.
Asked why only use of goatpox vaccine has been authorised for control of lumpy skin disease, Praveen Malik, Animal Husbandry Commissioner at DAHD, said the decision was taken based on IVRI’s recommendations. “Scientists there recommended that goatpox vaccine (Uttarkashi strain) is effective against lumpy skin disease. It is for scientists at IVRI or NIHSAD to recommend whether or not sheeppox vaccine can also be used,” Malik told The Indian Express.
In a reply to an RTI query filed by one Sandeep Kumar Gupta from Hisar, the Centre for Animal Disease Research and Diagnosis at IVRI-Izatnagar stated that “none of [the Centre’s] scientists was involved in advising use of goat pox vaccine in cattle and buffaloes to control lumpy skin disease”.