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Cervical cancer vaccine a blessing

The approval has been given after Phase III clinical trials, and the vaccine is expected to be commercially available later this year at the price of Rs 200-Rs 400 per shot
Last Updated 10 September 2022, 01:03 IST

The approval by the Drugs Controller General of India of an indigenously developed vaccine, Cervavac, against cervical cancer, is an important event in the fight against a major killer disease.

The approval has been given after Phase III clinical trials, and the vaccine is expected to be commercially available later this year at an affordable price of Rs 200-Rs 400 per shot. There are two vaccines available in the country now, but both are imported and are prohibitively costly. At over Rs 3,000 per shot, they are not for general use. The Indian vaccine has been developed by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India with help from the Department of Biotechnology. The vaccine has been found to be safe and effective against the quadrivalent Human Papilloma Virus (qHPV), which mostly causes cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in India after breast cancer, with over 4 lakh patients at any given time and killing one woman in the country every eight minutes on average. India accounts for about a fifth of the global burden of the disease, reporting about 1.25 lakh cases and 75,000 deaths every year. The actual incidence may be higher, and it might increase further with lifestyle changes in the coming years. If detected early, it is preventable. Women are more vulnerable to the disease, which is sexually transmitted. The HPV infection, which causes the disease, often resolves itself but in many cases, it aggravates and develops into cancer. Though regular screening can help in early detection, it does not happen in the country where public healthcare is minimal.

The challenge now is to roll out the vaccine to all needy persons, especially the 50 million girls in the age group of 9-14 years who are vulnerable. The aim should be to inoculate them under the national immunisation programme. Even boys are at risk, and they also need to be covered. There are proposals to launch a vaccination programme in schools. It should be ensured that the vaccination is free and all those who need it in whatever age group have access to it. It should also be a continuous programme. India has a vaccine delivery mechanism that has been strengthened after Covid. It can be put to use for the cervical cancer vaccine, too. The government should launch a mass awareness campaign which would take the message of the vaccine to the people, especially to those in the vulnerable groups.

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(Published 09 September 2022, 17:07 IST)

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