India’s first indigenously developed quadrivalent Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for cervical cancer prevention will be launched in a few months. On Thursday, Union Minister of State of Science & Technology Jitendra Singh announced the scientific completion of the vaccine.
This means that research and development related to the vaccine are complete and now the next step of making them available to the public would take place. Speaking at the event, Singh said COVID-19 has raised awareness about preventive healthcare leading to the development of vaccines like the one against cervical cancer.
“The schemes like Ayushman Bharat have made us think about preventive healthcare and we can now afford it. The Department of Biotechnology has taken a lead in the matter and is in collaborative mode. Scientific efforts at times do not get the scale of recognition they deserve. So this event is to celebrate that scientific completion,” he said.
Meanwhile, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII) Adar Poonawalla, who was also present, told reporters on the sidelines of the event, “The cervical cancer vaccine will be affordable and would be available in the range of Rs 200-400. However, the final price is yet to be decided”. Moreover, Poonawalla said the vaccine will be possibly launched by the end of the year.
Poonawalla also revealed that a plan to make 200 million doses is in place and first the vaccine would be given in India and only after that it will be exported to other countries. Rajesh Gokhale, Department of Biotechnology Secretary, said over 2000 volunteers participated across the country for this vaccine.
According to the officials, the qHPV vaccine CERVAVAC has demonstrated a robust antibody response that is nearly 1,000 times higher than the baseline against all targeted HPV types and in all dose and age groups. In July this year, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted market authorisation to the SII to manufacture the vaccine against cervical cancer.
Last month, in an interview with Financial Express.com, Dr. Mainak Chatterjee, Immunization Specialist, UNICEF India, informed that the central government is “considering” including SII’s HPV vaccine and Typhoid vaccine into the Universal Vaccination Programme.
“…discussions on the HPV vaccine are ongoing and the government is closely looking at it and evaluating whether to introduce it or not. The Typhoid vaccine in certain areas that have high endemicity and prevalence… is also something that the government is seriously considering. These two are something that we can look forward to in the coming days,” Dr. Chatterjee told Financial Express.com last month.
WATCH: Childhood vaccination is an investment for the future: Dr. Mainak Chatterjee, UNICEF India
What is CERVAVAC?
India’s first indigenous qHPV vaccine, CERVAVAC, is developed by the Pune-headquartered Serum Institute of India in coordination with the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at present three HPV vaccines are being marketed in many countries worldwide – a bivalent, a quadrivalent, and a nonavalent vaccine. All three vaccines are highly efficacious in preventing infection with virus types 16 and 18, which are together responsible for approximately 70 percent of cervical cancer cases globally.
The global health agency emphasised that the primary target group in most of the countries recommending HPV vaccination is young adolescent girls, aged 9-14. For all three vaccines, the vaccination schedule depends on the age of the vaccine recipient.
Until now HPV vaccines have been available from foreign manufacturers at a cost of approximately Rs 2000 to Rs 3,500 per dose. Based on the beneficiary’s age, HPV vaccines are given in two to three doses.
Prevalence of Cervical Cancer in India
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix. According to health experts, various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, play a role in causing most cervical cancer.
India accounts for about a fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer, with 1.23 lakh cases and around 67,000 deaths per year. According to WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer across the world.
According to experts, if the HPV vaccine is administered before girls or women are exposed to the virus, it can prevent the majority of occurrences of cervical cancer. Additionally, this vaccine can protect against vulvar and vaginal cancer.
It is estimated that HPV types 16 and 18 (HPV-16 and HPV-18) together contribute to approximately 70 percent of all invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide.