About the vaccine-
- Cervavac is India’s first quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) vaccine, and intended to protect women against cervical cancer.
- The vaccine is based on virus-like particles (VLPs), similar to the hepatitis B vaccine, and provides protection by generating antibodies against the HPV virus’s L1 protein.
- Experts see this as a real opportunity to eliminate cervical cancer, and have expressed the hope that it will be rolled out in national HPV vaccination strategies.
- HPV vaccines usually contain a protein known as L1 — present on the outer surface of the virus that are capable of assembling into VLPs.
- These VLPs then trick the body into thinking it is under attack by the virus, inducing the immune system to kick into action and create antibodies.
- The vaccine prevents infection from four strains, which is expected to give a coverage of approximately 90 per cent against papilloma virus prevalent in the developing world.
- Two vaccines licensed globally are available in India — a quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil, from Merck) and a bivalent vaccine (Cervarix, from GlaxoSmithKline).
- Although HPV vaccination was introduced in 2008, it has yet to be included in the national immunisation programme.
- Previous attempts to introduce the HPV vaccine in India was marred in controversy.
- A vaccine delivery and demonstration project led by international non-profit organisation PATH was started in 2009 in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat but had to be suspended in 2010 as a result of public concern allegedly arising from the deaths of seven girls who received the vaccine.
What is cervical cancer?
- Cervical cancer is a common sexually transmitted infection. Long-lasting infection with certain types of HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer.
- HPV causes warts in various parts of the body, depending on the strain. The infection has no cure, and the warts often go away on their own.
- Many people with HPV do not develop symptoms but can still infect others through sexual contact.
- Studies show that as much as 85 per cent of cervical cancer related deaths occur in low and middle income countries where routine gynecological screening is minimal or absent.
- There are about 14 high-risk HPV types including HPV 16, 18, 31, etc.
- Worldwide, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer type and the second most common cause of cancer death in women of reproductive age (15–44).
- According to the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC-WHO), India accounts for about a fifth of the global burden, with 1.23 lakh cases and around 67,000 deaths per year.
- It is preventable, but kills one woman every eight minutes in the country. It is preventable as long as it is detected early and managed effectively.