New Delhi: The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) has urged the Union government to include an indigenously developed cervical cancer vaccine in its immunisation programme and administer the same to girls for free.
“If the government takes an initiative as they did during Covid-19 to vaccinate every person in the country for free, cervical cancer would also be eliminated,” said Dr Shantha Kumari, president of the organisation.
She was speaking to media persons on the sidelines of an expert group meeting organised at AIIMS, Delhi on Monday. The theme of the meeting was “accelerating action for a cervical cancer-free country”.
While speaking on the importance of vaccines and screening in women, Dr Kumari said that every year, at least 1.2 lakh women develop cervical cancer and nearly 77,348 of them die due to this disease. The cost factor of the vaccine and less awareness among women are major hurdles in the prevention and detection of the disease, she added.
Currently, HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is available only in private hospitals and costs up to Rs 4,000 per dose, while the country’s first indigenous HPV vaccine, which is likely to come up at the end of this year, will cost Rs 200-400.
Dr Neerja Bhatla, head of the obstetrics and gynaecology department at AIIMS, told TOI that the institute in coordination with World Health Organisation was developing an artificial intelligence system, which could be used by healthcare workers for screening the presence of cancer cells in the body.
“By next year, this AI system, which is being developed in India, will be operational,” she said, adding that with this new development, there is a new hope to strive towards the elimination goals.
WHO has given a global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer by setting certain targets for 2030 — vaccinating 90 per cent of girls by 15 years of age, screening 70 per cent of women with an effective test like the HPV test and ensuring treatment of 90 per cent of precancerous and cancerous lesions.
Cervical cancer occurs due to high-risk HPV infection. Around 453 million Indian women aged 15 years and above are at risk of developing cervical cancer.