NEW DELHI : Pune-based drugmaker Serum Institute of India (SII) hopes to launch the country’s first indigenous human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) by November 2022 in India’s biggest push against cervical cancer.
The move comes after the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) recommended to the Union health ministry that HPV vaccination should be included under the National Immunisation Programme. Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix or the lower-most part of the uterus, where the malignant tumour can be prevented by screening and a HPV vaccine.
The ministry plans to target girls in the 9-14 years age group for vaccination against cervical cancer. At present, the vaccine is only available in private hospitals and costs up to ₹4,000 per dose. Every year, India reports 80,000-90,000 cases of cervical cancer, the most in the world.
“Before, the rollout of this vaccine, the Centre will launch a massive sensitization programme to educate parents and school authorities. As of now, the HPV vaccine is only available in the private sector at ₹3,500 to ₹4,000 per dose. However, two doses are required to complete the course of vaccination. Many people cannot afford this vaccine for their teenage daughters because it is so expensive,” said Dr NK Arora, chief of NTAGI.
SII expects to launch the HPV vaccine in November 2022, said people familiar with the matter.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women after breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.
However, there is very little awareness of the disease in India with many confusing it with cervical cancer of the neck area.
“Cervical cancer is a slow growing disease and peak incidence of cervical cancer is in the 50s age group. Therefore, HPV vaccine is very important for girls in the age group of 9-14 years. We recommend the PAP smear procedure to detect pre-cancerous legions during the age of 40 years. Every female should undergo a PAP smear test once a year,” said Dr Priyanka Arya, senior gynecologist, Curis Multispeciality Clinic in Noida.