With the country’s highest decision making body on vaccines set to take a call in its next meeting on the introduction of cervical cancer vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), the economic wing of RSS has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stall the move, citing safety and cost concerns.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s (SJM) national co-convener Ashwani Mahajan has said, “It is our concern that this programme will divert scarce resources from more worthwhile health initiatives diverting it to this vaccine of doubtful utility and that its adverse effects will erode confidence in the national immunization programme and thereby expose children unnecessarily to the risk of more serious vaccine-preventable disease.”
“Swadeshi Jagran Manch requests you to stop this move to introduce Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine in India and we recommend the strongest action against groups that pervert science, which brings ignominy to the scientific community in the country and sells the country to vested interests,” it added.
The letter comes against the backdrop of a National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) sub- group recommending introduction of HPV in UIP. The recommendation was to be taken up in a meeting of NTAGI on December 6. However, the meeting was postponed as it clashed with another meeting in the PMO, but sources in Health Ministry said whenever NTAGI meets next, it will take up the matter.
HPV is associated with more than 80 per cent cervical cancers. Data from the national cancer registry shows that in 2013, 92,731 cases of cervical cancer were reported in India, a figure that is projected to go up to 1,00,479 in 2020.
Stating that the possible introduction of the vaccine in India would lead to “an unmitigated tragedy”, the SJM, which had earlier criticised NITI Aayog and has been campaigning against Chinese products, said the vaccine had been used in “unethical” trials by Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Indian Council of Medical Research, leading to the deaths of tribal children in Andhra Pradesh. A Parliamentary Standing Committee had castigated the ICMR, Drug Controller General of India, Ethics Committee members and PATH for the “unethical manner in which this clinical trial was done after calling it a demonstration project.” The letter also argued that the WHO report showed this was a vaccine with “the highest rate of adverse effects among all vaccines in use”.
The letter also states that the vaccine is very expensive and studies in other countries have proved that it was not cost-effective.
SJM alleged that authors from PGI Chandigarh falsified science published by others in an attempt to show that $14/child for the vaccine is cost-effective. While NTAGI has not approved it yet, Punjab, ruled by the Opposition Congress has introduced it, said SJM.