A new vaccine to prevent Rotavirus, which kills around half a million children a year, has been unveiled by scientists in India.

An India manufacturer said the new vaccine, Rotavac, would cost Rs54 ($1) per dose, reported the BBC.

Rotavirus typically spreads through Asia and Africa via contaminated hands and surfaces. The virus causes dehydration and severe diarrhoea.

Once clearance is given to Rotavac, which is expected to be granted in eight or nine months, it will rival similar vaccines made by international pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, which each cost around Rs1,000 ($18) per dose.

India’s Department of Biotechnology official K Vijay Raghavan told the BBC; "This is an important scientific breakthrough against rotavirus infections, the most severe and lethal cause of childhood diarrhoea, responsible for approximately 100,000 deaths of small children in India each year."

"The clinical results indicate that the vaccine, if licensed, could save the lives of thousands of children each year in India," Raghavan added.

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The vaccine will be manufactured by Bharat Biotech, which said that once clearance was given it could mass-produce tens of millions of doses, saving thousands of children’s lives annually.

Union Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, S Jaipal Reddy, is reported by the Business Standard as saying that India has a "globally competitive" vaccine development programme, producing 60% of the world’s vaccines and accounting for about 70% of the annual United Nations vaccine purchases.

"The current Indian vaccine market is estimated at around $900m. It targets $4.6bn revenue by 2017 and poised to grow at 23% during 2012-13," Reddy said.

Image: It is hoped this new vaccine can save more children’s lives in Asia and Afrcia. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Hoskins.