The Union finance ministry is likely to accept the health ministry's demand to include a cervical cancer vaccine in the government's national immunisation programme in the upcoming Budget, people in the know of the matter told CNBC-TV18. Cervical cancer is the second-most frequent cancer among women in India. The cancer develops in the cervix, located at the bottom of the uterus.
The health ministry has pitched to the finance ministry that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine be included in the national immunisation programme to prevent cervical cancer.
The Union health ministry has said the cervical cancer vaccine is safe and can be administered to girls in the 9 to 14 age group under the national immunisation programme. The ministry said the government could procure the vaccine at a concessional rate as part of better health planning for women.
In India, women up to the age of 45 years can take the HPV vaccine. However, doctors strongly recommend
the vaccine be taken before one turns sexually active, which is why the ideal age for taking the vaccine is from 9 to 14 years when the person has most likely not been exposed to the HPV yet.
HPV is a big group of viruses that has close to 200 strains. Of them, around 10 viruses are related to cervical cancer. The two very-commonly associated HPV strains with cervical cancer are — 16 and 18.
Currently, HPV shots, Cervarix, Gardasil 4 and Gardasil 9, are available in India. The cost of Cervarix and Gardasil 4 is around Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,500 per dose, while Gardasil 9 is more expensive. The number of doses — two or three — depends on the age.
The Serum Institute of India has developed 'Cervavac', a quadrivalent vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, and it offers protection against four strains of HPV — 16, 18, 6, and 11. The homegrown vaccine is said to cost around 50 percent less
than the ones available in India at present.
The government expects Cervavac to be available around March or April next year.