India’s first indigenously-developed vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer — Cervavac — is ready for launch. Cervavac is developed through a partnership between the department of biotechnology (DBT), Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Serum Institute of India.
Jitendra Singh, Union minister of state for science and technology, earth sciences, atomic energy and space, said that Cervavac would be an affordable, cost-effective and accessible vaccine.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute of India (SII), said the vaccine will be launched in two to three months and will be priced between Rs 200 and Rs 400. A similar two-dose imported vaccine for cervical cancer is available in the country but it costs around Rs 5,000-8,000. SII is planning to make around 100-200 million doses and gradually scale it up.
Cervavac could soon be a part of the government immunisation programme and also be available privately. Poonawalla called for more collaboration between the private and government sectors for the manufacturing of vaccines and drugs in India.
Around 1.25 lakh women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and over 75 thousand die from the disease in India, and 83% of invasive cervical cancers were attributed to HPVs 16 or 18 in India, he said. India accounted for a fifth of the global cervical cancer cases.
The minister said the most promising intervention for preventing cervical cancer was vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV). It is estimated that HPV-16 and HPV-18 together contributed to approximately 70% of all invasive cervical cancer cases worldwide.
Rajesh Gokhale, secretary, DBT, said the partnerships with industries were becoming important for doing R&D, which requires huge funding.