The Union health ministry is likely to revive the three public sector vaccine units of BCG Lab Chennai, PII Coonoor and CRI Kasauli which were closed early 2008 due to non-compliance of GMP norms set by the WHO, it is learnt.

As part of this, the government has started overhauling the administrative mechanism of these vaccine and sera-manufacturing institutes with sufficient staff and other infrastructure facilities. A new director has been appointed at the Pasteur Institute, Coonoor. Dr B Sekhar, joint director at Central Leprosy Training & Research Institute (CLTRI), Chengalpattu, has taken over charge as the new director at the PII, Coonoor in Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu.

In another development, the Health ministry has called a meeting of the directors of these institutes on January 6, 2009 in New Delhi, wherein the top-level officers of the ministry including the DCGI will take part to find a concrete solution to the issue. According to sources, it is hoped that, a final settlement favourable to the demands made by the staff of these decades old units is likely to evolve.

In the BCG Lab at Guindy in Chennai, the post of director has been lying vacant after the former head Dr Elangeswaran was sacked in May, 2008. Though an official in the rank of joint director from the CRI Kasauli was posted as the full-time director in October, he has not yet assumed charge. According to senior officers of the ministry, the government is considering a microbiologist to head the BCG. After Dr Elangeswaran, the day-to-day affairs of the Lab are looked after by the chief medical officer of the Central Health Institute.

Both the institutes were manufacturing vaccines for the immunization programme of the country for the last six decades. But on 15th January 2008, BCG, Chennai and PII Coonoor were ordered to stop manufacturing of vaccines citing non-compliance of GMP norms set by the WHO. Along with this, the Central Research Institute at Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh was also asked to stop production.

After the closure of production at the institutes, the health ministry was contemplating to convert these units into testing and training laboratories. For this purpose, the ministry has also constituted a committee of experts for laying guidelines for the conversion project.

The BCG Lab was manufacturing anti-tuberculosis Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine (BCG Vaccine) whereas the Pasteur Institute of India (PII) in Coonoor was producing DTP vaccines, Vero-cell-derived rabies vaccine and Tissue culture anti-rabies vaccines.

The Central Research Institute (CRI) at Kasauli was the main contributor of the DPT group of vaccines to the Immunization Programme.