From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Cervavac, Cervical cancer
Mains level : Menstrual hygiene and related diseases
Union Minister of Science and Technology has announced the scientific completion of Cervavac, India’s first indigenously developed quadrivalent human papillomavirus (qHPV) vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer.
What is Cervavac?
- Cervavac was developed by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India in coordination with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).
- The project to develop the vaccine was implemented by the then secretary of the DBT, Dr. M K Bhan in 2011.
- Since then, 30 meetings of scientific advisory groups and site visits conducted by DBT have helped review the scientific merit of the entire journey to develop the vaccine.
- Cervavac received market authorisation approval from the Drug Controller General of India on July 12 this year.
What is so unique about Cervavac?
- HPV vaccines are given in two doses and data has shown that the antibodies that develop after both are administered can last up to six or seven years.
- Unlike Covid vaccines, booster shots may not be required for the cervical cancer vaccine.
- Until now, the HPV vaccines available in India were produced by foreign manufacturers at an approximate cost of Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,500 per dose.
- Cervavac is likely to be significantly cheaper, slated to cost approximately Rs 200 to 400.
- It has also 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.
Significance of the vaccine
- Despite being largely preventable, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, according to the WHO.
- In 2018, an estimated 57000 women were diagnosed with the disease and it accounted for 311,000 deaths across the world.
How common is cervical cancer in India?
- 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.
- Almost all cervical cancer cases are linked to certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that is transmitted through sexual contact.
- The body’s immune system usually gets rid of the HPV infection naturally within two years.
- However, in a small percentage of people, the virus can linger over time and turn some normal cells into abnormal cells and then cancer.
How dangerous is cervical cancer?
- Cervical cancer is preventable if detected early and managed effectively.
- Screening and vaccination are two powerful tools that are available for preventing cervical cancer.
- Still, there is little awareness among women about the prevention of this cancer and less than 10% of Indian women get screened.
- All women aged 30-49 must get screened for cervical cancer even if they have no symptoms and get their adolescent daughters vaccinated with the HPV vaccine.
What are the challenges?
- The biggest task will be in allocating adequate resources and manpower for vaccinating the massive demographic of adolescent girls aged between 9 and 15, to ensure that they are protected from HPV early.
- There is a huge need for stepping up awareness about the disease and the vaccine in the community.
- Unlike Covid and the vaccination programme, there is very little awareness about cervical cancer.
- Overall awareness and screening are very low in the community and that is a concern.
- Since this is a preventable disease and hence a huge awareness programme is required
- School-based vaccination programmes might work effectively.
- Currently, none exist and therefore planning will have to be done along those lines.
- Those accessing public health programmes will get the vaccine free of cost at government-aided schools.
- However concerted efforts will have to be made to ensure the involvement of private healthcare facilities and NGOs towards an effective rollout.