By Vinod Varshney
India may lead the world in preventing cervical cancer by producing a vaccine in just Rs 120 per person, roughly hundred times cheaper than the existing price of the Merck’s vaccine. The Indian vaccine prototype is ready and its trial would begin in India and South Africa by the end of December this year.
If the Indian vaccine turned out equally efficacious in trials, then for sure, India would be able to capture the entire global market. This announcement was made today by Dr Radhakrishna Pillai, the director of Rajiv Gandhi Centre of Biotechnology while speaking in the first plenary session of the India International Science Festival being held at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
Dr Pillai was hung-ho about the development and said that the Indian vaccine would revolutionise the prevention of cervical cancer in India and the world. Indian women aged 15 years and more remain at risk of developing this cancer which is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus transmitted sexually.
Dr Pillai was delivering a lecture on the issue of preventive and integrated healthcare. He said there were two methods of preventing cervical cancer. The primary prevention can be achieved by vaccination while the secondary prevention method is screening, which is functionally impossible among all women in India.
In the primary prevention, the current problem is the very high cost of the vaccine as much as Rs 18,000 per woman. He told in detail how the first attempt to curtail this high cost succeeded when it could be proved in Indian trials that only two doses were enough and can give the same immunity as the three doses as per the recommendations of the company. The trial was done in India among 20,000 girls aged between 10-18 years.
After the Indian trial the UK, Canada and Australia switched over to the two dose regime. But the real relief would come when the current Indian prototype vaccine would come out successful in the proposed trial. Dr Pillai expressed the confidence about its success.
Earlier, the trial of Merck’s HPV vaccine had generated immense controversies in India so much so the matter reached the Supreme Court and was also raised hackles of politicians in the Indian parliament.