Immunisation drives give HPV vaccine a miss in Karnataka

Bengaluru: Despite 96% of patients suffering from cervical cancer being HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) positive in the state, HPV vaccination has still not been included in government's regular immunisation programme. 

Health and Family Welfare department of Karnataka government currently provides vaccine for preventable diseases..

HPV is a group of virus which can cause penile cancer in men, cervical, vaginal, anal and vulvar cancer in women. It can also lead to throat and rectum cancer irrespective of gender. The virus is transmitted through intimate contact and even spreads through contaminated toilets and use of unhygienic pads. The commercial HPV vaccination is available at private hospitals costing `3000-6000; which is beyond the reach of most patients, especially those in rural areas. This vaccine is given thrice in six months to girls aged 9-13 years. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) had granted permission earlier to introduce the HPV vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP). The commercial vaccines were made available to the Indian market in 2008, but were limited to private sector.  

Dr Sandeep Nayak, surgical oncologist from Fortis Hospital said, "This is the second most common cancer in urban areas and the most common one in rural areas of the state. There are two vaccines available in the country; Cervarix and Gardasil which can significantly reduce the cancer percentage.” He also said that there is a lot of controversy about the dosage. It is effective when given to the teenagers. “Cost is the reason why government is not adding it to the Immunisation Programme, he added. 

A national immunisation programme (NIP) is the organizational component of Health Ministry charged with preventing disease, disability, and death from vaccine-preventable disease in children and adults. It operates within the framework of overall health policy. The official from Health and Family Welfare department said that it is difficult for the state government to provide this kind of vaccination because of the cost. Punjab and Delhi have begun providing HPV vaccination through their public health programmes.

However, there is a proposal to introduce HPV vaccine in India’s UIP. 'If that happens then we can begin the vaccination process," added the official. The medical fraternity stays divided on this issue, not only due to the cost of the vaccine, but also due to lack of long-term data available on the efficiency of this recently developed vaccine.

Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women and among Indian women it is the second most frequent, according to the WHO.


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