Doctors want HPV vaccine in immunisation programme

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As the country is observing Immunisation Week, the demand to include cervical cancer vaccine into Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) is fast gaining momentum. India alone accounts for about 25% of global deaths due to cervical cancer.

Though the government is yet to take a formal stand on the introduction of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, the medical practitioners have vociferously urged the government to include the vaccine into UIP.

According to medical experts, cervical cancer is the second most common cause of deaths among Indian women aged between 15 and 44 years. “About 1.2 lakh women are suffering from cervical cancer in India. The Indian Council of Medical Research has revealed that less than 30% women in India aged between 30 and 49 years have been screened for cervical cancer,” said a senior doctor at the Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology.

Evidently, a survey by the oncologists of Bengaluru based HCG, Bengaluru alone records 21.1% of the 1,00,000 fresh cases of cervical cancer reported every year.

“Under various government schemes, only about 29% women are screened for cancer. This shows poor awareness among women even though periodic awareness is need of the hour. We have observed that majority of women that we diagnosed with cervical cancer were never screened in the last five years,” said Dr B Ramesh, gynecologist, laparoscopic surgeon and medical director at Altius Hospital.

The National Family Health Survey-4 pointed out that Karnataka has the least number of women who got their cervix screened in their lifetime. The Kidwai Institute of Oncology has estimated about 5,000 new cases identified each year in Karnataka alone. In Bengaluru, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among females with 850 cases being diagnosed every year. At Kidwai Institute, about 1,500 cases of cervical cancer are registered every year accounting to 24% of all cancers in women.

Interestingly, though the HPV was licensed for use in India by the Drug Controller General of India in 2008, the vaccine has not been included in routine immunisation programme.

Doctors said all the doses of the vaccine would only cost around Rs 4,000 to Rs 5,000 and must be made part of the national programme. A few states have been already advocating the use of the vaccine.

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