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HPV vaccine to be part of the universal immunization program

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Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    23 February 2023

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine may soon be included in the universal immunization programme (UIP), the national vaccination program of the Government of India.

 

Six states have been selected for the first phase of the vaccination, which may begin in June this year. These states are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram. The target group for vaccination includes girls aged 9-14 years. Over 2.5 crore girls are likely to get the vaccine in the initial phase.

 

At present, the UIP includes BCG, polio vaccines (oral and injectable), pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), hepatitis B, rotavirus vaccine, measles and rubella (MR), Japanese encephalitis vaccine, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DPT) vaccines. The Pentavalent vaccine, a combined vaccine is also provided under the UIP, which protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) infection and Hepatitis B.

 

Until now, only Gardasil, Merck’s HPV vaccine, was available in the country and that too only in the private sector. This combined with the high cost of a little over Rs 10,000 made it inaccessible to many. GSK discontinued its HPV vaccine, Cervarix, last year.

 

But now India has a “swadeshi” HPV vaccine. “CERVAVAC”, the first made-in-India quadrivalent HPV vaccine, which was launched, most fittingly, on January 24 this year marking the National Girl Child Day. This vaccine is an outcome of a joint collaboration between the Serum Institute of India (SII) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

 

The two-dose vaccine will be first available in the private sector and its cost, as per Serum Institute of India, will be Rs 2,000 per vial of two doses. And once the vaccine is included in the UIP, the price is expected to be even more affordable reportedly around Rs 200-400 per dose.

 

Cervical cancer is a preventable and treatable disease. Despite this, it is the second most common cancer in the country. About one-fourth of global deaths due to cervical cancer occur in India. Around 1.25 lakh women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually with more than 75,000 deaths occurring every year. According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 (2019-21), less than 2% of women undergo screening for cervical cancer. More than 80% of invasive cervical cancers are due to HPV types 16 and 18. Vaccination has emerged as the most effective prevention option.

 

Sources

  1. Press Trust of India, Feb. 12, 2023.
  2. Ministry of Science & Technology, Press Information Bureau, Sept. 1, 2022.

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