July 14, 2024

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Cervical Cancer Vaccine in India: A Boon for Nation’s Health – Healthcare News

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By Dr. Angela Chaudhuri

In a groundbreaking move towards prioritizing women’s health, the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the government’s commitment to focus on vaccination against cervical cancer for girls aged 9 to 14 in the Interim Budget of 2024. This significant step is part of a comprehensive effort to address the burden of cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer among women globally, with a disproportionate impact on low- and middle-income countries.

Understanding HPV and Cervical Cancer

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Cervical cancer is a malignant tumour primarily caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Certain high-risk types, notably HPV 16 and HPV 18 are responsible for most cervical cancer cases. Recognizing the link between HPV and cervical cancer underscores the importance of vaccination in preventing this devastating disease.

In the Indian context, the National Cancer Registry Programme (ICMR-NCRP) of the Indian Council of Medical Research notes the projected count of cervical cancer cases in 2023 to be above 3.4 lakhs. This alarming statistic highlights the urgent need for effective preventive measures to combat the prevalence of cervical cancer in India.

HPV vaccination emerges as a vital tool in the prevention of cervical cancer. By vaccinating individuals before they are exposed to high-risk HPV types, the incidence of cervical cancer can be significantly reduced.

Vaccine hesitancy a big challenge

Despite the proven benefits of HPV vaccination, certain misconceptions have led to hesitancy among individuals and communities. Addressing these concerns and providing accurate information is essential for informed decision-making.

The vaccine stands as a pivotal defense against a spectrum of cancers caused by HPV, including cervical cancer. By inducing the production of antibodies, the vaccine employs virus-like particles (VLPs) mirroring the HPV’s structure. These VLPs trigger a robust immune response, generating significant antibody levels that act as a frontline defense during future encounters with HPV. Addressing persistent misconceptions, it is crucial to dispel myths such as the vaccine causing severe side effects or exclusively benefiting girls. Research consistently affirms its safety, with mild and temporary side effects. One common misconception is that HPV vaccination encourages early sexual activity, a claim debunked by extensive research emphasizing the vaccine’s preventive nature. Additionally, both genders benefit from the vaccine, providing protection against HPV-related cancers for boys and girls and reducing overall virus transmission.

The vaccine’s efficacy extends to long-term protection, contrary to the belief in its limited duration. Studies confirm enduring defense against HPV-related cancers, reinforcing its sustained effectiveness. Misconceptions about age restrictions for vaccination are debunked, emphasizing its benefits for individuals up to age 26 for females and age 21 for males. Moreover, those already infected with HPV can still receive the vaccine, offering protection against other HPV strains. The vaccine’s targeted approach stimulates antibody production, activates immune responses, prevents HPV infection, and provides cross-protection against multiple HPV strains. Crucially, it contributes to reducing overall HPV transmission, creating a herd immunity effect that safeguards both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals from potential virus exposure.

Cervavac: India’s recent breakthrough

In the battle against cervical cancer, the launch of Cervavac in India represents a remarkable advancement in public health, offering a preventive measure that can save countless lives.

Developed indigenously, it is a breakthrough prophylactic vaccine designed to prevent HPV infection and cervical cancer. Rigorous research, clinical trials, and regulatory approvals have ensured the safety and efficacy of this vaccine. This innovative vaccine has the potential to save countless lives and enhance the general health and wellbeing of people as well as communities.

Collaborative efforts involving healthcare professionals, policymakers, and the public are crucial in raising awareness about the importance of HPV vaccination. Dispelling misconceptions, promoting accurate information, and ensuring widespread access to Cervavac will lead to significant strides in preventing cervical cancer and enhancing women’s health in India.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also advises the inclusion of routine HPV vaccination in national immunization programs, considering public health priorities, program feasibility, sustainable financing, and cost-effectiveness. Success relies on effective education and mobilization of stakeholders, emphasizing parents, health workers, and communities. Tailored approaches, community engagement, and coordinated efforts between health and education sectors are crucial. These strategies offer valuable guidance for countries and regions seeking to initiate or enhance their HPV vaccination programs, emphasizing the need for comprehensive planning and collaboration to achieve optimal vaccine coverage and public health impact.

In a shot

Vaccination is a dual responsibility, personal and collective. By dispelling misconceptions, promoting accurate information, and ensuring widespread access to vaccination, India can make significant strides in preventing cervical cancer and enhancing women’s health. This transformative approach aligns with global health recommendations and highlights the power of collective action in promoting overall community well-being.

(The author is a Chief Executive Officer and Chief Catalyst, Swasti. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)


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