INDIA – The Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced the launch of its indigenously-developed quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) in a bid to combat HPV-linked cervical cancer in the country.

The drug development comes months after the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted market authorization to SII to manufacture the locally-produced HPV vaccine.

This is not the first HPV vaccine to be available in India, but it is the first home-grown one.

According to the Company’s note, the collaboration between the Serum Institute, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led to the creation of the qHPV CERVAVAC.

CERVAVAC’ is an outcome of a partnership of DBT and BIRAC with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, supported by Serum Institute of India Private Limited for the indigenous development of quadrivalent vaccine through its partnership programme ‘Grand Challenges India’,” SII stated.

SII has released the first made-in-India HPV vaccine against cervical cancer christened ‘CERVAVAC’ ahead of the National Girl Child Day and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

In a tweet, SII Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Adar Poonawalla said: “On the occasion of India’s National Girl Child Day and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, Serum Institute of India is pleased to launch the first made-in-India HPV vaccine by the hands of our Home Minister Amit Shah.”

CEO Poonawalla stated that the HPV vaccination took the company roughly six to seven years to produce and it will help in the prevention of cervical cancer in women and girls.

The HPV vaccine – the Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine ‘CERVAVAC’ – will be an affordable one and will be rolled out in high capacity to overcome existing market shortages,” he added.

Human Papillomavirus, which is sexually transmitted, is responsible for a wide variety of genital infections. It can also lead to cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, or penis.

In India, cervical cancer ranks as the second-most common cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.

HPV vaccinations guard against infection brought on by the Human Papilloma Viruses group of more than 200 closely related viruses. Experts say early treatment prevents up to 80 percent of cervical cancer.

SII’s HPV vaccine, ‘CERVAVAC’, can help to prevent most incidences of cervical cancer if given to girls or women before they are exposed to the virus.

It could pave the way for a less expensive and more efficient method of providing HPV and cervical cancer prevention to women and girls in India and beyond.

So far, the imported HPV vaccine is only available at private hospitals for Rs3,500 to Rs4,000 per dose, with two doses required to complete the vaccination.

I don’t know the exact cost yet but am given to understand that the cost of the vaccine will be one-tenth of the internationally-branded vaccine currently available,” Dr. NK Arora, Chairman of the Covid working group, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), said.

He confirmed that the qHPV CERVAVAC would be available for Indian patients by May 2023, adding that the Union government will roll out the HPV vaccine as part of its national health programme for girls aged between 9 and 14 years.

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