CowAs the world battles the impact of a zoonotic disease (diseases that pass from an animal or insect to a human), called COVID-19, the need for advanced research and understanding on interspecies illnesses has become more relevant than ever before. And with our growing awareness of zoonotic diseases, the interconnectedness between animal health and human health merits greater attention. In this context, while the spotlight remains fixated on human vaccines, it is also important for us to scrutinize the growth and potential of the animal vaccine industry in the country.

Currently, the global veterinary vaccine industry is valued at more than $12 bn, and it has continued to follow an upward trajectory with a CAGR of 6.3% in the past couple of years. Against this backdrop, the animal vaccine industry in India is currently valued at around $1 bn. And in recent years, the cattle segment has made the highest contribution towards the growth of the animal vaccine industry. As approximately 100 million Indians are involved in dairy farming and given that India currently produces approximately 23% of the world’s milk, the investment in cattle health will continue to remain on the top of the agenda for policymakers. Nevertheless, the fastest growing vaccine segment pertains to companion animals – this category mainly comprises of dogs and cats. Further, as approximately 97% of the human rabies cases in India get transmitted from dogs, there has been a consistent thrust by the government on the National Action Plan for Rabies - an initiative that seeks to mass vaccinate dogs across the country.

Speaking of categories, the animal vaccine market includes attenuated vaccines, inactivated vaccines, subunit vaccines, toxoid vaccines, conjugate vaccines, recombinant vaccines, and DNA vaccines. Out of these, attenuated vaccines dominate the market. As a result of the recent initiatives by the government under the National Animal Disease Control Programme – the most prominent animal vaccines are Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) vaccines to combat goat plague, Brucella vaccine to combat Brucellosis, and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine to protect against FMD in cattle. Under the FMD vaccine programme, the government has earmarked more than 13,000 crores with the objective of containing the disease by 2025 and eradicating it by 2030. The programme aims to vaccinate 100% cattle, buffalo, sheep, goat, and pig population for FMD and 100% bovine female calves of 4-8 months of age. Schemes like this have unleashed a new wave of opportunities for companies operating in the animal vaccine space.

The growing market for the animal vaccine industry can be attributed to the fact that India has the highest livestock population in the world. Per census reports, the country has a livestock population of 535.8 million. Consequently, the Indian animal healthcare industry accounts for approximately 3% of the global animal healthcare industry in value and around 10% in volume. Against this backdrop, the recent initiatives by the government in the field of livestock health and disease control have laid the groundwork for robust growth in the country’s animal vaccine industry. Till 2024, the National Animal Disease Control Programme intends to cover 30.33 crore animals, out of which more than 17 crore animals have been covered so far, and approximately 18 crore animals have been tagged. The animal vaccination initiatives are an integral component of the Livestock Health and Disease Control (LH&DC) Scheme that has been up and running since the 10th Five Year Plan, but it has been enhanced in the past five years and attained greater traction with the launch of the NADCP in 2019.

If we attempt to quantify the economic impact of animal diseases, then the statistics are startling. For one, the sheep and goat plague, which has a mortality rate of up to 70%, can cause an annual loss of up to INR 4,571 crores. To enhance the efficacy of vaccination drives, it is important to address challenges pertaining to lack of animal tracking, tagging, and lack of control over the inter-state movement of states. So, under the current programme, there is an emphasis on tagging animals under the Pasu Aadhar scheme (unique identification for animals), ensuring the first dose for all eligible sheep and goats in the first year, with follow up booster does in subsequent years.

Last week the Chief Minister of Mizoram raised an alarm after the death of more than 5000 pigs within the state because of swine fever. The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) reported that pig farmers in the North-eastern belt of the country incur annual losses of approximately INR 200 crores because of swine fever. As piggery is getting more popular across the country, the Classical Swine Fever Control Programme that was initially concentrated in the Northeastern states is now getting extended to other regions of the country. More importantly, this programme gained momentum after India developed its own vaccine for Classical Swine Fever last year. Priced at merely INR 2 per dose in contrast to the standard vaccine rate of INR 20 - 30 per dose – homegrown innovations like this will go a long way towards alleviating the woes of farmers.

The animal vaccination drives across the country are poised to gain momentum with the successful model of mobile veterinary units that have become popular in places like Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Additionally, mobile veterinary units can become an effective tool to further augment health monitoring and the door-to-door vaccination drive for animals. Importantly, the vaccination drive across the country will continue to get support through the initiatives under Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD), a program that is primarily focused on aiding States/Union Territories for containing zoonotic diseases of livestock and poultry through immunization. In this context, the creation of a digital architecture for providing access to animal health and data in real-time has been enabled through portals like Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health (INAPH). And INAPH could become a helpful tool for the real-time monitoring of animal vaccination drives across the country.

Thus, the animal health industry in the country will continue to grow owing to a whole range of schemes and initiatives by the government, and the increasing pace of innovation by the private industry to plug the gaps in the value chain. In fact, the phenomenal innovations witnessed in the human vaccine industry post-COVID – have created an ideal template for the animal vaccine industry to replicate. Now, that countries across the world are working towards vaccinating their animals against COVID- 19, Indian vaccine makers would do well to take the lead so that soon enough we can have our own version of a homegrown COVID-19 vaccine for animals.

This blog has been authored by Naina Sharma and Angad Singh Punia

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