INDIA on Friday (October 4) launched an indigenous vaccine against Japanese encephalitis as part of a national programme to fight the virus.

Nineteen states, including the two most populous ones of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are hit by the disease each year as malnourished children succumb to the virus which is transmitted by mosquitoes from pigs to humans.

“Beginning with the first report in 1955 in Tamil Nadu state, JE virus has now spread to over 171 districts in 19 states,” Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said at the launch of the vaccine called Jenvac in New Delhi.

The two-shot vaccine was developed by government agencies and the private Bharat Biotec pharmaceutical firm in a joint venture launched in 2008.