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India will offer low-cost vaccine

NEW DELHI — The Indian government announced Tuesday the development of a new low-cost vaccine that has proved effective against a diarrhea-causing virus that is one of the leading causes of childhood deaths across the developing world.

The Indian manufacturer of the new rotavirus vaccine pledged to sell it for $1 a dose, a significant discount from the cost of the current vaccines on the market. That reduced price would make it far easier for poor countries to vaccinate their children against the deadly virus, health experts said.

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Rotavirus, which is spread through contaminated hands and surfaces, kills about half a million children across the world each year, 100,000 of them in India.

At a conference Tuesday, the government announced that Phase III trials of Rotavac proved that it is safe as well as effective. The clinical trial of 6,799 infants at three sites in India showed the vaccine reduced severe cases of diarrhea caused by rotavirus by 56 percent during the first year of life.

‘‘The clinical results indicate that the vaccine, if licensed, could save the lives of thousands of children each year in India,’’ said Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan, the secretary of the Department of Biotechnology.

The vaccine still needs to be licensed before it can be distributed in India and would require further approval by the World Health Organization before it could be distributed globally.

Two other vaccines have proved effective against rotavirus, but they are significantly more expensive.

The GAVI Alliance, which works to deliver vaccines to the world’s poor, negotiated a significant discount last year with GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.

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