Home / Budget / News /  Govt plans rollout of vax in push against cervical cancer

NEW DELHI : In India’s biggest push against cervical cancer—one of the biggest killers of women—the union budget to be presented on 1 February may announce a roll-out of the country’s first indigenously made vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the cancer.

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women after breast, lung and colorectal cancer, with India accounting for nearly a fourth of the world’s cervical cancer deaths.

The disease affects around 125,000 women—reported and unreported cases—in India every year, and kills over 75,000. Nearly all cervical cancer is due to HPV—a virus that also causes several other cancers in women.

The vaccine, CERVAVAC, has been jointly created by the Serum Institute of India (SII) and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

The budget is likely to include it as part of the Universal Immunisation Programme, said an official aware of the matter.

As of now, all that is available in India is an imported HPV vaccine, and that too only at private hospitals for 3,500 to 4,000 per dose. Two doses are required to complete the vaccination.

The union government now plans to target girls in the 9-14 years age group for vaccination against cervical cancer, with Serum Institute keeping the price of the vaccine at around 200-400 per dose.

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 an HPV vaccine.

“There is a proposal from the health ministry on the HVP vaccine considering women health as a priority. The inclusion of HPV vaccine under universal immunisation programme may be highlighted in the union budget and free jabs for eligible girls," said the official cited above, requesting anonymity.

The Serum Institute had earlier said that the company would be able to launch the vaccine by November. However, production got delayed due to the covid-19 pandemic.

“HPV vaccine is likely to be rolled out by the first half of the upcoming year (2023), said another person aware of the matter from Serum Institute. However, queries sent to the health ministry and Serum Institute spokesperson did not elicit any response.

Cervical cancer is among women’s diseases that require urgent government intervention.

Health experts have sounded a warning over the lack of awareness of the cervical cancer in India which is one of the leading cause of deaths in females despite the disease being largely preventable.

The move was welcomed by women’s health specialists.

“Any female who is above 11 years of age or sexually active or has a high risk for cervical cancer should take the HVP vaccine. The central government is making a good move to include HVP vaccine under universal immunisation programme because it will prevent the disease as cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of death in women," said Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, a gynecologist and IVF expert at The Nurture Clinic in Delhi.

“Those individuals who have family history of cancer or have multiple sexual partners and not using protection are pre-disposed to developing cervical cancer. Ideally, the vaccine should be given when the female is not sexually active but can also be given between 11-45 years of age," said Dr Bajaj.

According to the International Classification of Disease by the World Health Organization (2022), in India, 65,978 females were detected with cervical cancer in 2015. The figure climbed to 75,209 in 2017 which is expected to reach 85,241 in 2025.



Priyanka Sharma

Priyanka Shamra is a health and pharma journalist with nearly nine years of field reporting experience. She is a special correspondent with Mint. Her beat includes covering the Ministry of Health and Department of Pharmaceuticals. She also covers the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Department of Biotechnology.
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