Friday, 10 October 2008

Vaccine for Human Papilloma Virus: India Enters Demonstration Phase

October 8, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Oct 7: Young women in India can now live without the fear of the cancer of cervix.
The stage is now set for the "demonstration phase" of the vaccine against the killer human papilloma virus in the country with the Indian Council of Medical Research inviting institutes and candidates for operations research services, which will finally pave the way for the introduction of HPV vaccine against cancer of cervix.
Following encouraging results from pilot studies carried out in different parts of the country including Khammam district in Andhra Pradesh, the ICMR has taken the process of introduction of HPV vaccine to the next stage by seeking volunteers to participate in the project. Vaccine demonstration project is an important phase before a vaccine is officially introduced for mass inoculation.
Volunteers and research institutes may enrol themselves for the demonstration project before October 17. The Central government will finalise the list next month.
Introduction of HPV vaccine will bring down the rate of cancer of cervix in women in the country. India contributes one-fifth of the global burden of cervical cancer cases and those at high risk are married women, above 35 years old.
The ICMR has already roped in PATH, an international voluntary organisation, for the vaccine demonstration project in the country. "The overall goal of the HPV vaccine project is to maximise country readiness and strengthen the policy environment by generating critical data and experience for evidence-based decision-making on HPV vaccine introduction in the public sector. The HPV vaccine demonstration projects will be reviewed by relevant government and institutional review board authorities to obtain necessary approvals prior to implementation," according to ICMR officials.
According to PATH statistics, nearly 500,000 women each year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 250,000 die from it. A disproportionate number of those deaths occur in developing countries, particularly India. The new vaccines will make it possible to protect women before they become infected. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the world. There are more than 100 strains of the virus, but only a handful cause cancer. Women are usually infected in their teens, 20s, or early 30s, but they don’t show symptoms until much later, so they are not aware.
"Pilot studies in India and other developing countries indicated that the new vaccines against HPV are safe and 100 per cent effective. Widespread vaccination, it is expected, could reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer by at least half over the next five decades. The vaccine is most effective if given to girls before they have been exposed to the virus during sex," says a PATH report.

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