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HPV Vaccine and Its Role in Preventing Cancers



  Mar 05, 2024

HPV Vaccine and Its Role in Preventing Cancers



What is the HPV vaccine, and which cancers can it prevent?

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is designed to prevent infections caused by specific strains of HPV known to cause several types of cancers. This vaccine can help prevent six types of cancers: cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, throat, and penile cancers. Five of these cancers primarily affect women.

Why is the HPV vaccine particularly important for women?

Cervical cancer, caused by HPV, is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, leading to over 300,000 deaths annually. In India, it’s the second most common cancer among women. The vaccine offers a significant means of prevention, reducing the incidence of cervical cancer and other HPV-related cancers.

What are the global and India-specific challenges in combating cervical cancer?

Globally, the majority of cervical cancer deaths occur in lower- and middle-income countries due to the lack of effective intervention programs. In India, about 500 million women are at risk of cervical cancer, with projections indicating a significant rise in cases and deaths if no action is taken. Challenges include limited access to HPV vaccination, lack of awareness, and inadequate screening programs.

What are the strategies for preventing cervical cancer?

Two major strategies have been identified: HPV vaccination and screening for precancerous lesions. The World Health Organization advocates for a 90-70-90 intervention strategy, aiming for 90% of girls to be vaccinated by age 15, 70% of women to undergo high-performance screening by ages 35 and 45, and 90% of detected pre-cancer and cancer cases to receive treatment and care by 2030.

What has been India’s approach to HPV vaccination?

India introduced the HPV vaccine in 2008, and after successful state-level rollouts, it was recommended for inclusion in the Universal Immunization Programme in 2023. However, the vaccine’s national launch is pending. Currently, accessibility is limited, with the vaccine available in the private market at significant costs.

What are the misconceptions and challenges in HPV vaccination in India?

Many physicians underestimate the risk of HPV infection and cervical cancer, along with the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine. There is hesitation to recommend the vaccine due to misconceptions about its necessity, safety, and the mode of HPV transmission. Misinformation and myths also contribute to vaccine hesitancy.

How are medical societies in India addressing these challenges?

The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) are working together to educate over 80,000 member physicians on the facts of HPV vaccination and best practices for communicating with parents. Their goal is to create 20,000 HPV physician champions by mid-2024 to spread awareness and encourage vaccination.

What is the recommended age for HPV vaccination in India?

The primary recommended age group for HPV vaccination is 9-14 years, according to FOGSI’s Good Clinical Practice Recommendations. Additionally, regular cervical screening is advised for every woman above the age of 30 years to detect and treat any precancerous or cancerous lesions early.

How can HPV vaccination contribute to the elimination of cervical cancer in India?

With effective vaccination strategies targeting adolescents and regular screening programs for women, India can significantly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Leadership from physicians and widespread awareness can play a crucial role in eliminating cervical cancer as a public health problem in India.


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