Delhi has become the first state in the country to launch the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine as a public health programme for school children. Health Minister Satyendar Jain Monday said girls studying in Class VI in government schools will be targeted in the first year. This will be completed in the current academic year over two phases.
The HPV vaccine protects people against the group of 150-odd HPVs, some of which can cause cervical cancer.
Speaking at the international workshop for cancer awareness, prevention, screening and early detection for SAARC nations Monday, Jain said, “In the next three to four months, we will begin the first phase of the vaccination programme in Delhi. This year, we are starting with only Class VI girl students. In the next year, our target is to include all girls between the age of 9 and 13. I think we will eradicate cervical cancer from Delhi first in India…”
Children will be given two doses of the vaccine. The first and the second doses will be administered within 30 days of each other. A third booster dose will be given within 240 days of the first vaccine, which will be covered in the next phase, said officials.
The Centre is mulling to introduce the vaccine under the universal immunisation programme, but no rollout has been announced as yet.
Jain said the programme will target 1-1.5 lakh girls in the first phase. “There are many logistics which need to be worked out, so we are starting the programme only in government schools for now. Next year, we will target private schools and cover a wider age group…,” he said.
He added that the booster doses will also be covered in later phases. Sources said the Delhi government will purchase the vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and MSD Pharmaceuticals at a subsidised cost of Rs 450 per dose. The market rate of the vaccine is Rs 3,000, said officials. “Currently, the vaccine is not manufactured in India. So, we will be importing the vaccine at a subsidised cost from GSK and MSD,” said a senior official. Jain said the government will purchase the vaccines directly from private companies.
Dr R K Grover, director of the Delhi state cancer institute, which will be coordinating the programme, said, “Almost 80 per cent of cervical cancers can be prevented with the HPV vaccine. This programme has already been adopted in 150 countries. Delhi will be the first state in India to replicate this.”
He said as per WHO recommendations, the first dose of the vaccine should be administered to girls between 9 and 13 years. “But this would amount to almost 10 lakh girls in Delhi, which would not be practical in the first year. So we will begin by targeting only girls in Class VI. By next year, we will widen the ambit,” he said, adding that the first phase will start in July-August and the second phase will be completed by January-February.