All you need to know about India's indigenous cervical cancer vaccine
India’s first indigenously developed quadrivalent Human Papilloma Virus vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer will be launched in a few months and made available to people at ₹200-400 per shot
India’s first indigenously developed quadrivalent Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer will be launched in a few months and made available to people at an affordable price range of ₹200-400 per shot.
Union Minister of Science and Technology Jitendra Singh on Thursday (September 1) attended an event to announce the scientific completion of the vaccine. Scientific completion implies that R&D activities pertaining to the vaccine are complete, and now the next step of making them available to the public would take place.
Film star Manisha Koirala, who fought and won the battle against ovarian cancer, joined the function virtually and thanked all the stakeholders for bringing out the vaccine. “It is a great day for women in India and the world over,” she said.
Growing importance of prevention
Speaking at the event, Singh noted that the COVID pandemic prompted the world to the virtues of preventive healthcare, particularly in a society like India, which had less awareness of preventive medicare due to various socio-economic factors.
“The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has taken the lead in the matter and is in collaborative mode,” he said. “Scientific efforts at times do not get the scale of recognition they deserve. So, this event is to celebrate that scientific completion.”
The new vaccine against cervical cancer, named Cervavac, has been developed by Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd (SII), and is the outcome of a partnership of DBT and BIRAC with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It will be launched once an adequate quantity of doses is manufactured and ready for distribution. It will be administered with a two-dose schedule for girls in the age group of 9-14 and a three-dose schedule for girls and women in the age group of 15-26.
Final price yet to be decided
CEO of SII, Adar Poonawalla, who was also present at the event, told reporters on the sidelines of the event: “The cervical cancer vaccine will be affordable and would be available in the range of ₹200-400. However, the final price is yet to be decided.”
Poonawalla said the vaccine would possibly be launched by the end of the year.
First, the vaccine would be made available through the government channel and from next year onwards, some private partners would be involved too, he added.
Poonawalla also said that a plan to make 200 million doses is in place. The vaccine would first be given in India, and will then be exported to other countries.
Rajesh Gokhale, Secretary, DBT, said over 2,000 volunteers participated across the country for this vaccine. “Partnerships between private-public are becoming very important in such research, this co-creation is what is going to make all the difference in the world,” he said.
According to the officials, the qHPV vaccine Cervavac has demonstrated 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.
Cervical cancer ranks as the second most prevalent cancer in India and accounts for nearly one-fourth of the world’s cancer deaths despite being largely preventable. Current estimates indicate that every year approximately 1.25 lakh women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Over 75,000 die from the disease in India.
Several critical initiatives are currently being implemented to promote basic and translational vaccine research, including the Indo-US Vaccine Action Programme, National Biopharma Mission and Ind-CEPI Mission, besides Mission COVID Suraksha, which was launched as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat 3.0.