Haffkine Institute for Training Research and Testing, Mumbai, has requested the Union minister of health and family welfare, Harsh Vardhan, to consider making anti-venom serums and vaccines free of cost, reported the Pune Mirror.
While India has a huge number of snake bites cases reported every year, treatment using anti-venom serums or vaccines become unaffordable to many people.
Treatment for snake bite is urgent but people lose their life as they do not have enough money, the institute said. Vardhan has responded positively to this proposal, stating the health ministry will consider the idea, officials said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has by now declared snake bites as a neglected tropical disease twice.
According to the WHO, only 10 per cent of snake bite cases are registered in India and the actual number is assumed to be much higher. Reports estimate that every 10 minutes, one person dies due to snake bite in India. Every year, 54 lakh snake bites are reported worldwide, leaving 27 lakh people disabled.
In India, around 2.5 to 3 lakh people are bitten by snakes every year. While more than 50,000 people die due to snake bite and 1.5 lakh people end with disabilities, from blindness to amputations.
“Maharashtra records the highest number of cases and anti-venom is the only way to treat snake bites. Haffkine Institute is the premier institution in this country for making anti-venom serum. But the vaccines, anti-venom, and injections are costly and people cannot afford them.”says Dr Nishigandha Naik, director of Haffkine Institute for Training Research and Testing.
“There is a great variation that happens due to the season and the geographical regions. Due to this, anti-venom serums and vaccines are no longer working efficiently.”she added.
Unlike earlier, the need for number of vials of serum or vaccine needed to treat a snake bite has increased to almost five vials. Antivenoms and sera cost around Rs 1800 to Rs 2,000 in the market.
“Haffkine is making more efforts to upgrade vaccines. The central government has started schemes through Ayushman Bharat for people who cannot afford treatment. Snake bite treatment can be included in such schemes. We have asked to consider making it free in all the institutes from public health cares to private institutes,” she said.