A bold step towards a cervical cancer-free future


India’s interim Union Budget 2024-25 prioritizes women’s health by advocating for the vaccination of girls against cervical cancer.

  • The global ’90-70-90′ targets set by the World Health Organization aim to combat cervical cancer through vaccination, screening, and treatment.


GS-02 ( Health)

Main highlights:

  • Success stories from countries like Scotland, Australia, and Rwanda highlight the efficacy of HPV vaccination in reducing cervical cancer incidence.
  • India’s indigenous quadrivalent vaccine, Cervavac, and Sikkim’s successful vaccination campaign serve as examples of progress in combating cervical cancer.
  • Challenges such as vaccine hesitancy and equitable access need to be addressed to ensure the success of HPV vaccination programs in India.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Cervical Cancer Overview
  • HPV Strain Varieties
  • Global Efforts Against Cervical Cancer
  • India’s Initiative in Women’s Health
  • Cervavac Overview
  • Success Stories and Lessons Learned
  • Challenges and Opportunities

Cervical Cancer Overview:

  • Cervical cancer arises in the cervix of women and ranks as the fourth most prevalent cancer type worldwide, standing as the second most common among Indian women.
  • The overwhelming majority (99%) of cervical cancer cases are associated with infection by high-risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted virus.
  • Effective primary prevention strategies such as HPV vaccination and secondary prevention methods like screening for and treating precancerous lesions have the potential to avert the majority of cervical cancer cases.
  • Timely detection and appropriate management render cervical cancer highly treatable when diagnosed early.
  • India bears a substantial burden of cervical cancer, accounting for approximately one-fifth of global cases, with around 125,000 new cases and 75,000 deaths annually.

HPV Strain Varieties:

  • Persistent infections with specific high-risk HPV strains account for nearly 85% of all cervical cancers.
  • Among the identified oncogenic HPV types, comprising at least 14 strains with cancer-causing potential, HPV 16 and 18 are deemed the most carcinogenic, responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases worldwide.

Global Efforts Against Cervical Cancer:

  • The World Health Organization’s ’90-70-90′ targets represent a concerted effort to combat cervical cancer globally.
  • These targets emphasize the importance of HPV vaccination, cervical cancer screening, and treatment to reduce the burden of the disease.
  • Countries like Scotland, Australia, and Rwanda have witnessed significant declines in cervical cancer incidence through successful HPV vaccination campaigns, demonstrating the effectiveness of preventive measures.

India’s Initiative in Women’s Health:

  • India’s interim Union Budget 2024-25 highlights the government’s commitment to women’s health by advocating for the vaccination of girls against cervical cancer.
  • Despite being the second most common cancer among women in India, cervical cancer remains a preventable disease with the implementation of HPV vaccination programs.
  • The development of Cervavac, an indigenous quadrivalent vaccine, reflects India’s efforts to ensure accessibility and affordability in combating cervical cancer.

Cervavac Overview:

  • It is developed by the Serum Institute of India in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in Pune.
  • The project commenced under the leadership of Dr. M K Bhan, the former secretary of DBT, in 2011.
  • Market authorization of the same is granted by the Drug Controller General of India on July 12 this year.
  • Unique Features:
    • Administered in two doses, with data indicating long-lasting antibody development for up to six or seven years.
    • Unlikely Covid vaccines, this does not require booster shots.
    • Expected to be significantly cheaper than existing HPV vaccines, with an estimated cost of Rs 200 to 400 per dose.

Challenges and Opportunities:

  • However, challenges such as vaccine hesitancy and equitable access persist in the implementation of HPV vaccination programs.
  • Addressing misinformation and strengthening healthcare infrastructure are crucial steps in overcoming these hurdles.
  • India’s rollout of the U-WIN portal, akin to Co-WIN for COVID-19 vaccination, aims to streamline vaccination efforts and improve responsiveness.
  • Collaborations between government agencies, healthcare providers, and civil society organizations are essential in building trust and ensuring the success of HPV vaccination programs.

Way Forward:

  • India’s inclusion of HPV vaccination in the interim Union Budget 2024-25 marks a significant step towards advancing women’s health.
  • By leveraging its experiences in vaccine distribution and community engagement, India can build a robust HPV vaccination program that addresses the unique challenges of cervical cancer prevention.
  • Continued investment in public health infrastructure and education is key to overcoming barriers and achieving widespread vaccination coverage.