Flu shot market prospects leap as India approves use by pregnant women


By Apoorva Choubey and Harshita Singh

MUMBAI – The national drug regulator's decision to allow Sanofi Pasteur India Pvt Ltd's Influenza vaccine, Vaxigrip, to be given to pregnant women signals wider acceptance for flu shots in India, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic having improved public awareness and general confidence in vaccines. 

Vaxigrip is the first flu shot to be approved for pregnant women in India. It is one of the two flagship brands of the Influenza vaccine marketed by Sanofi Pasteur India, which is the unlisted Indian arm of French pharmaceutical company Sanofi S.A.

The Flu Shot Market In India Has The Potential To Grow 10-fold In The Next Three To Five Years.

There has been a reluctance by regulatory authorities to recommend vaccines during pregnancies but this has changed over the past few years, especially with COVID-19, says Dr Ashish Bavdekar, department of paediatrics, KEM Hospital Research Centre, Pune. 

Sanofi Pasteur has taken advantage of this fact and all other vaccine companies will shortly extend their licensure indication for flu shots to include pregnant women, he believes.

Earlier this month, an expert committee of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation accepted Sanofi Pasteur's proposal for extending its influenza vaccine's usage to pregnant women, while citing that there would be passive protection of infants up to six months of age also. The committee noted that the World Health Organisation, and countries such as France and Russia have approved the vaccine for pregnant women.  

The flu shot market in India has the potential to grow 10-fold in the next three to five years, as several doctors are recommending these vaccines to the elderly and there is a higher tendency to take vaccines after the COVID-19 pandemic, said Vishal Manchanda, an analyst at Nirmal Bang Institutional Equities.   

In fact, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd has received the regulator's approval to market Fluarix Tetra in the extended age group of those above 64 years, subject to the condition that the firm conducts Phase IV clinical trial in the country.

Currently, India's 3-4-bln-rupee influenza shot market is dominated by brands including Abbott India Ltd's Influvac, Sanofi's FluQuadri, GlaxosmithKline Pharmaceuticals' Fluarix and Zydus Cadila Ltd's Vaxiflu, according to data provided by IQVIA. This data largely covers the private sector and some sales of direct supply, hospital purchase, government purchases and donor supplies may not be covered. 

There are around 19 players operating in the segment but top five brands make up almost 100% of the flu shot market in India, said Sheetal Sapale, president, marketing at AIOCD Pharmasofttech AWACS Pvt Ltd.     

At least three of these top five flu shots can be given to most people, ranging from six-month-old infants to adults of up to 64-65 years of age. The biggest demand for flu shots in India currently comes from elderly people, said analysts.

While influenza vaccinations have been given quite sporadically by the private sector in India up until now, trends are beginning to change with higher public awareness and promotional campaigns by companies entering the market.

The influenza vaccine market has shown a value and volume growth of 20% and 5%, respectively, over the past one year, Sapale, from AIOCD, said. The growth was driven primarily by only two brands, Sanofi's FluQuadri and Abbott's Influvac Tetra, she said.

The approval for Sanofi Pasteur's flu shot for pregnant women, the sharp growth seen by top brands in recent times, and the possibility of the regulator allowing the shot to be given to people above 65 years also, all indicate that the influenza vaccine market is heating up in India, analysts believe.

In India, few physicians prescribe vaccines to people above 55 years of age, but that needs to change because one cannot just concentrate on the early years of life, Bavdekar, of KEM Hospital, said. The COVID-19 vaccination drive will change things as its apparent that giving vaccinations to adults is not that difficult, he said.  End

Edited by Shirsha Thakur

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