Cervical cancer: Most patients can't afford costly vaccinations

Cervical cancer: Most patients can't afford costly vaccinations

Cervical cancer: Most patients can't afford costly vaccinations

Poor women are thought to have the highest risk of developing cervical cancer but the vaccinations are so expensive they remain unaffordable for this high-risk group. 

Surveys conducted by government and private agencies show that most cases of cervical cancer are reported in poor women in urban areas but a single dose of vaccination costs at least Rs 2,200, meaning that not many of these patients can afford it. A patient has to take at least three doses. 

The basic vaccination that protects from HPV 16 and HPV 18—believed to be the most common infections—costs Rs 2,200, while the one that gives protection against cysts too is priced at Rs 2,800 per dose. 

How safe?

Then there are concerns about how safe these vaccinations are. But Dr Rani Bhat, consultant gynaecological oncologist, BGS Global Hospitals, rubbishes them. 

“When complications were reported, they were attributed to cervical cancer vaccination. But this is untrue,” she told Deccan Herald on the eve of World Cancer Day. 

“Like any other vaccination, it may have side effects such as fever, pain at the site of infection and allergy in a very few cases.” 

According to her, the vaccination is known to be effective against the two viruses, HPV 16 and HPV 18, which account for as much as 80 per cent of cancer cases. 

Dr Hema Diwakar, past president, Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India, believes mass screening and vaccination programmes could address the issue. 

“With mass vaccination, considering the effectiveness of the vaccination, 98 per cent of the disease burden can be cut down,” she said. “If more people get vaccinated, the cost may come down. There is just a need to create demand.” 

75K deaths in India

According to her, this is the only way to cut down on new cases. Drawing a comparison, she said that in the United Kingdom, just 300 deaths were reported a year as against 75,000 in India. “Even when it comes to screening such as Pap-smear test and Colposcopy, fewer people take them.”