The Serum Institute of India’s (SII) indigenously developed Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) — Cervavac — was recently granted regulatory approval for sale by the Drugs Controller General of India (DGCI). It sets out to prevent cervical cancer — one of the leading causes of female cancer mortality in the country, particularly in rural areas.
As it is known, the HPV vaccine substantially reduces the risk of cervical cancer among women. So, should men not take the vaccine as they are not at risk of developing cervical cancer? Experts disagree.
Elucidating, Dr Gunjan Gupta Govil, Founder and Chairman, Gunjan IVF World Group, said, “HPV vaccine gives us protection against genital warts, protects women from cervical cancer, and men from penile cancer. As far as India is concerned, the HPV vaccine is recommended for use in women only. However, in the US, the recommendation is for use in men as well. So there is a scope of use of HPV vaccine in men in India as well, though we are still awaiting recommendations.”
Highlighting that HPV is a sexually-transmitted virus, Dr Kanika Gupta, Senior Director – Surgical Oncology (Gynae Cancer), Max Hospital, Vaishali, too, stressed the importance of men taking the HPV vaccine. “You increase the herd immunity and decrease the virus’ effect altogether in the population,” she said.
While many believe that the HPV vaccine offers protection only against cervical cancer, it’s not the case. “HPV causes not only cervical cancer in women but also other cancers including head and neck cancer, anal cancer, oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancer, among others, which can be prevented. HPV infections can cause several types of cancers later in life for men, including cancers of the throat, penis, and anus. As a matter of fact, HPV cancers are now the most common type, and affect more men than women,” Dr Gupta said.
The right age to get vaccinated
Be it for men or women, the right age to get the HPV vaccine starts from the age of 9. “The advantage of taking this HPV vaccine before the start of sexual maturity is that you are not infected with HPV and the vaccine is most effective. It will give one protection against penile cancer and warts in more than 90-95 per cent of cases. The best age group in boys is 11 – 12 years and the same goes for the girls as well,” Dr Govil said.
Agreed Dr Gupta and said, “Before 15 years of age, two dosages of vaccination is good enough. Between the age of 16-25 years, three doses of vaccination should be given to them.”