India's first home-grown human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), was launched on Tuesday, 24 January.
SII CEO Adar Poonawala announced the launch, via Twitter, of the much-awaited vaccine called CERVAVAC to help prevent cervical cancer.
"On the occasion of India's National Girl Child Day and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, @SerumInstIndia is pleased to launch the first made-in-India HPV vaccine by the hands of our Hon'ble Home Minister Shri @AmitShah Ji," he tweeted.
Why is this new vaccine a big deal? When can you get the vaccine? How much will it cost? FIT answers your FAQs.
Firstly, why do we need an HPV vaccine?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer – the second most common type of cancer in the world.
According to a recent study published in the Lancet, India accounts for the highest number of cervical cancer cases as well as deaths in Asia.
An affordable and accessible HPV vaccine could make a huge difference in bringing down these grim numbers.
Are there other HPV vaccines available in India?
CERVAVAC isn't the first HPV vaccine in India, although it is the first made-in-India HPV vaccine.
Currently, we have the Gerdasil HPV vaccine developed by US-based pharmaceutical company Merck & Co, but it is not very widely available.
There was also the Ceravix bivalent vaccine produced by GSK Pharmaceuticals. However, GSK Pharmaceuticals announced in September 2022 that it was discontinuing its HPV vaccine in India.
How is the SII vaccine different from them?
Serum Institute's cervical cancer vaccine, CERVAVAC, is a quadrivalent HPV (qHPV) vaccine – which means it targets and protects against four types of HPV.
According to the company, its HPV vaccine is expected to give a coverage of approximately 90 percent against HPV that's prevalent in the developing world.
Although there are even nano-valent HPV vaccines out there (that are capable of protecting against nine strains of the virus), the fact that SII's vaccine is made in India is likely to make it much more affordable and accessible than some of the other imported vaccines.
In what dosage should the vaccine be taken?
According to experts, if you are below the age of 21 and yet to be sexually active, two doses are required to complete the vaccination.
If you are over the age of 2, you might need three doses. However, it is best to consult with a doctor to figure out what works for you depending on your body and health.
How much will it cost?
The SII HPV vaccine is reportedly going to cost between Rs 200 and Rs 400 per dose.
Compare this to the imported HPV vaccines that can cost up to Rs 4,000 per dose. You typically require two doses to complete the vaccination.
When will it be available?
Although the company is yet to make a formal announcement, Dr NK Arora, chairman of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), had said in December that the vaccine is likely to come to the market in April 2023.
At what age should you take the HPV Vaccine?
Speaking to FIT previously, Dr Kanika Batra Modi, a gynaecologic oncologist at Max Hospital in Delhi, said that the best time to get the vaccine is between the ages of 9 and 14. However, it can also be taken up till the age of 45.
"The vaccine is most effective if the person takes it before they are sexually active. But, according to the Indian guidelines given by FOGSI (Federation of Obstetric and Gynecological Societies of India), it is recommended till the age of 45."Dr Kanika Batra Modi