Vaccine against cervical cancer to be included in the national immunisation programme by mid-2023

Indigenously developed vaccine to be rolled out by mid-2023 will be available at a much lower price than those now available in the market.

BySouth First Desk

Published Dec 14, 2022 | 5:41 PMUpdatedDec 14, 2022 | 5:41 PM

vaccine against cervical cancer

The vaccine against cervical cancer will be included in the national immunisation programme by mid-2023, Dr N K Arora, chairperson of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said.

He said that the country will be in a position to roll out an indigenously developed Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) against cervical cancer for girls in the age group of 9–14 under the National Immunisation Programme by mid-2023.

Dr NK Arora was addressing the South Asia meet on HPV in New Delhi.

At present, the country is totally dependent on foreign manufacturers for the vaccine. Three foreign companies manufacture the HPV vaccine, of which two firms sell their vaccines in India. Each dose of the jab available in the market costs over ₹4,000.

CERVAVAC vaccine by SII in April 2023

Prakash Kumar Singh, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at the Serum Institute of India (SII), said that the CERVAVAC vaccine by SII is likely to be launched in April 2023 and will be available at a much lower price than the international vaccines now available in the market.

The vaccine has received the Drug Control General of India (DCGI)’s approval. It has been cleared by the NTAGI for use in the public health programme.

In September 2022, SII CEO Adar C Poonawalla said that the HPV vaccine will be available in India at an affordable price of ₹200-400 per dose.

1.6% of women face the risk of cervical cancer

India is home to about 16 percent of the world’s women and accounts for about a quarter of all cervical cancer incidences and nearly a third of global cervical cancer deaths.

Indian women face a 1.6 percent lifetime cumulative risk of developing cervical cancer and a 1.0 percent cumulative death risk from cervical cancer, Dr Arora said.

Citing recent estimates, Dr Arora added that every year almost 80,000 women develop cervical cancer and 35,000 die due to the disease in India.

To a specific query, Dr Arora said vaccines to prevent HPV infection have been available since 2006. The HPV vaccination can prevent more than 90 percent of HPV cancers, if administered at the recommended age.

Studies done in India indicated that the efficacy of a single dose of the HPV vaccine is more than 95 percent.

Based on the studies, the WHO has now recommended that even a single dose of the vaccine for girls aged nine-14 is effective

Also read: Kerala panel on vax policy suggests anti-rabies vaccines for kids

HPV vaccine is gradually improving

Dr Arora said vaccine supply has been a limiting factor globally. Fortunately, over the past five years, the global supply of the HPV vaccine is gradually improving.

India has taken a lead in this direction. SII, with support from the Department of Biotechnology, has developed four-valent HPV vaccine.

The vaccine has received regulatory approval and has been cleared by NTAGI for use in the public health programme.

“We are given to understand that three other Indian vaccine manufacturers are also in various stages of developing the HPV vaccine,” Dr Arora said.

“The NFHS-5 data shows that only about two percent of women have ever undergone screening in India. This is unacceptable. The screening of women has to be taken up in a manner which is culturally acceptable and scientifically appropriate,” Dr Arora said.

Vaccines alone will take more than a decade to show their impact but early recognition of pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions through mass screening followed up with treatment will save thousands of untimely and avoidable women deaths, he said.

Women with cervical cancer lose their lives in their 40s and 50s when their families require them the most.

Screening of women in their most vulnerable period has to be taken up in a mission mode not only to achieve global targets but to prevent families from suffering extreme grief and multi-faceted tragedies.

(With agency inputs)