India launches 'CERVAVAC', the first indigenously developed qHPV vaccine against cervical cancer

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India launches 'CERVAVAC' — the first indigenously developed Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) against cervical cancer. 

After 10 years of extensive research and clinical trials in 12 hospitals across India including AIIMS-Delhi, it is an outcome of a partnership of DBT (Department of Biotechnology) and BIRAC(Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council) with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supported by Serum Institute of India.

What is Cervical Cancer?

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix — the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) play a role in causing most cervical cancer. It is estimated that HPV types 16 and 18 (HPV-16 and HPV-18) together contribute to approximately 70% of all invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide.

Cervical Cancer Stats

As per a report in the Indian Journal of Gynaecologic Oncology’s December 2021 issue, cervical cancer accounted for 9.4 per cent of all cancers and 18.3 per cent of new cases in 2020 in India. In numbers, 18.3 per cent of the new cases translate to 1,23,907 cases. As per the government data, cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most prevalent cancers in India and accounts for nearly one-fourth of the world’s cervical cancer deaths despite being largely preventable by vaccination and regular screening. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data, 41, 91,000 women have died due to cervical cancer in India since 2019.

The HPV Vaccine Scenario

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that most often cause cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. India has been fully dependent on foreign manufacturers for the HPV vaccine. As of now, imported HPV vaccines are only available in the private sector and they cost about ₹3,500-4,000 per dose and two doses are required to complete the course of vaccination. However, on September 1, India launched her indigenously developed qHPV vaccine, and the price of this one is expected to be around ₹200-400. 

qHPV vaccine in National Immunization Programme

The health ministry is planning to roll out qHPV for girls aged 9-14 years under the National Immunization Programme. The roll out may take up to six months. 

Before, the rollout of this vaccine, the Centre will launch a massive sensitization programme to educate parents and school authorities.

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