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FM Sitharaman announces cheaper cervical cancer vaccine for girls between 9-14 years

Sitharaman presents Budget 2024 in Lok Sabha. Source: Screengrab/Sansad TV

In a bid to prevent the occurrence of cervical cancer, the government will bring down the price of HPV vaccine in order to encourage vaccination among girls in age group of 9 to 14 years, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced while presenting the Interim Budget 2024 on Thursday.

“Our Government will encourage vaccination for girls in age group of 9 to 14 years for prevention of cervical cancer,” Sitharaman said in her Interim Budget 2024 speech on 1 February.

Following the Finance Minister’s declaration, the government has already begun negotiations to purchase doses from top domestic vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII). The government’s action is significant because the two-dose vaccine’s market price is approximately Rs 2,000 per dosage, making it unaffordable for some people.

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The government intends to roll out the discounted medications in September once Pune-based SII is ready to distribute about six crore doses. The HPV vaccine is expected to cost the government between Rs 200 and Rs 250, which is around a tenth of the retail price. Plans are underway for the vaccination to be provided for free to females.

Cervavac, SII’s domestic HPV vaccine, was made available throughout India last year. India has access to two additional vaccines that are licensed globally: Cervarix, a bivalent vaccine from Glaxo Smith Kline, and Gardasil, a quadrivalent vaccine from Merck. SII’s vaccination costs Rs 2,000 per dosage, while Gardasil-4 and Gardasil-9 cost roughly Rs 4,000 and Rs 11,000 per treatment, respectively.

Cervical cancer is a major cause of cancer mortality in women and more than a quarter of its global burden is contributed by developing countries.

According to National Library of Medicine, in India, cervical cancer contributes to approximately 6–29 per cent of all cancers in women.

A report by IANS recently cited Dr. Neha Kumar, Senior Consultant, Gynaecological Oncology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad saying cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Indian women accounting for about 18 per cent of all cancers occurring in this demographic group.

Every year, over 1,20,000 new cases of cervical cancer disease are diagnosed out of whom more than 77,000 cases succumb to death owing to diagnosis during advanced stages of the cancer. This brings the mortality rate to approximately 63 per cent, the doctor was quoted as saying.

In her Union Budget 2024 speech, Sitharaman said various schemes for maternal and child care will be brought under one comprehensive programme for synergy in implementation.

“Upgradation of anganwadi centres under ‘Saksham Anganwadi and Poshan 2.0’ will be expedited for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care and development,” the FM said.

Sitharaman further said the newly designed U-WIN platform for managing immunisation and intensified efforts of Mission Indradhanush will be rolled out expeditiously throughout the country.

With inputs from agencies

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