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In July this year, India granted market authorisation to Serum Institute of India (SII) to manufacture the indigenously-developed India's first Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) against cervical cancer. This will be the country's first indigenously developed vaccine to treat cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer in India ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.
Who should be getting jabbed with HPV vaccine? Who should avoid? And, what about boys and men? The Quint caught up with Dr Tanaya Narendra, more famously known as Dr Cuterus, to break it down for you.
But first, what is HPV?
"HPV is a big family of virus, which has hundreds of different varieties. Some of them are more commonly linked with cancer – for example, 16 and 18. Some are commonly linked with getting genital warts. Now warts are just bumpy lesions that can appear on your genitals. They don't look very pretty. They also take some time to heal. So the HPV vaccine not only protects you from genital warts, but also from a cancer."Dr Tanaya Narendra to FIT
For example, HPV is implicated in causing cancers:
The cervix, which is the bottom part of your uterus
Cancers of the mouth
Cancers of oropharynx, which is the back part of your throat.
"You can also have cancer in the anus, or you can have cancer in the penis due to HPV," Dr Cuterus added.
Who Should Get & Who Should Avoid?
In India, everyone between the age of nine and 45, are eligible to get the vaccine.
If you are between nine to 13, you get two doses.
If you are 15-45, or 13-45, you get three doses.
What about the men?
"Now, the fact of the matter is that, technically, in India, men are also licensed to get it since September 2021 onwards. Not sure if that is rally happening, not sure how accessible that is but you know, if you are eligible, do try and get it. If you find Google articles, dating from any time, that say that you should get it if you are 26 and below, that information is outdated because since 2018 onwards, the new recommendation are that people up to the age of 45 can get it," the doctor added.
But, who should not be getting it?
People who are pregnant, or breastfeeding
Those who are immunocompromised – recovering from cancer, have an auto-immune disorder, or is a recent transplant recipient
Allergic to specific components of the vaccine
At present, there are two HPV vaccines available in India are Ceravix, produced by GSK pharmaceuticals, and Gardasil by MSD Pharmaceuticals. Both of which cost up to between Rs 2000 and Rs 4000 per dose.
'Stop the Moral Policing'
Skin-to-skin contact is how this virus spreads. Even if she accidentally touches someone who is HPV positive, and touches herself, she can get it. I find that it is easier to explain to them the consequences of not getting the vaccine, and that it can usually increase the risk of getting cancer, and it is just a simple shot that can protect you from something as deadly as cancer. So, unlinking the sex situation is really helpful.
"People do believe that my young daughter is not having sex – which is why she doesn't need to get vaccinated. I am not saying that your young daughter is having sex. But I am saying there is a lot of ways in which she can get the HPV virus."Dr Tanaya Narendra to FIT