Fresh hope for cervical cancer warriors

It is not very often that morning newspapers bring some cheer with good news. But last Friday morning was special. Headlines of the day stated that the first indigenous cervical cancer vaccine was likely to be rolled out by December this year.

Called “Cervavac”, the vaccine will benefit a very large number of people worldwide, more so in our country. India accounts for one-fourth of all global deaths from the condition. According to estimates, 1.25 lakh Indian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and more than 75,000 die from the disease. Cervical cancer is believed to be the second most common cancer that affects women in India after breast cancer.

This will inspire hope amongst the low and middle income groups who account for 90 per cent mortality rate from the condition. The vaccine has been developed by the Department of Biotechnology and the Serum Institute of India, Pune. 200 million doses will be prepared and each dose is expected to be affordable – the cost is likely to be between Rs 200 and Rs 400. Depending on age, the vaccine is given as a two-dose or three-dose regimen. The vaccine will be administered in India first and given to the world later, said the manufacturers.

Currently two vaccines are available in the private market – both made by foreign companies. These sell for Rs 2,000 to 3,500 per dose now. The Indian vaccine will bring down the prices drastically. Final details on exact cost and dosage for various age groups will emerge in coming months. 

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, which is the lower part of the uterus connecting the vagina. People can reduce risk of developing cervical cancer by having screening tests. Routine Pap tests are suggested. An affordable Indian vaccine has been long awaited. While there are many reasons for getting cervical cancer, a weak immune system and even smoking is reportedly harmful. Doctors also suggest practicing safe sex and preventing sexually transmitted infections.

The question is: how safe and effective is the Indian vaccine? Those involved with its development say that it is both safe and effective with evidence from vaccine use in various countries. There have been extensive tests on it. It is even suggested that shots of the vaccine should also be administered to boys to prevent certain cancers and genital warts in them.

One hopes that given the magnitude of the problem, the Government would involve the NGOs like us, Rani Breast Cancer Trust (RBCT) in identifying people for the vaccine. We have been involved in creating awareness about breast and cervical cancer. Lack of awareness is one major problem and convincing people to take preventive steps – and vaccines – is another. But, we at RBCT can help!  

Blog/ Kanwar Sandhu (Source: Media Reports)

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