Cervical cancer vaccine will primarily be provided through schools: Govt

Published on Dec 22, 2022 01:10 AM IST

India’s first indigenously developed HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer is likely to be rolled out by next year, and, after that the Centre is expected to launch a nation-wide immunization drive soon after that.

The states have been asked to identify a nodal person in each school to coordinate with the vaccination activities. (AP)
The states have been asked to identify a nodal person in each school to coordinate with the vaccination activities. (AP)
By, New Delhi

The nationwide cervical cancer immunisation drive for girls aged between 9 to 14 years will be provided primary through schools, the Centre has informed the state and Union Territories (UTs), while asking them to start collating the number of girls enrolled in classes 5th to 10th in each district.

India’s first indigenously developed HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer is likely to be rolled out by next year, and, after that the Centre is expected to launch a nation-wide immunization drive soon after that. In July this year, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) granted market authorisation to the Serum Institute of India’s (SII) to manufacture the indigenous HPV vaccine

The states have also been asked to take measures to set up “HPV vaccination centers in schools for vaccination”, create awareness among parents through parents-teachers’ meetings in schools, and coordinate with the government and private school management boards for the same.

In a joined later sent to all states and UTs on Monday, Sanjay Kumar, Secretary, School Education and Literacy Ministry of Education, and Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said, “Cervical cancer is a preventable and curable disease, as long as it is detected early and managed effectively. Most cervical cancers are associated with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and the HPV vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if the vaccine is given before girls or women are exposed to the virus.”

“Prevention through vaccination is one of the pillars of the global strategy adopted by WHO for the elimination of cervical cancer. Further, the National Technical Advisory Group for Immunization (NTAGI) has recommended introduction of HPV vaccine in the Universal Immunization Programme (UIP) with a one-time catch-up for 9- l4-year-old adolescent girls followed by routine introduction at 9 years,” the letter stated.

Stating that the vaccination would be provided “primarily through schools (grade-based approach: 5th to 10th) as the school enrolment of girls is high”, the letter said that it will also be made available at government health facilities. “For out-of-school girls the campaign would be conducted through Community Outreach and Mobile teams based on age (9-14 years). For registration, recording and reporting of vaccination numbers, the U-WIN App would be used,” it said.

Requesting states to issue necessary directions at appropriate levels for taking up several activities in order to make the campaign a “successful one”, the government asked them to direct the Education Officers in each district to support District Immunization Officers and be part of efforts of the District Task Force on Immunization (DTFI) under District Magistrates (DMs).

The states have been asked to identify a nodal person in each school to coordinate with vaccination activities and collate the number of 9-14 years of girls in the school and bulk upload the same in U-WIN. “Generate awareness through school teachers to all parents during Special Parents-Teachers’ Meeting (PTAs). Support health team to plan vaccination campaigns in the state excluding months of examination and holiday,” the letter read.

The states have asked to generate an up-to-date list of all Unified District Information on School Education (UDISE) data in each block for micro planning and access to GIS mapping of schools to district immunization officers for developing micro plans so that “none of the school is missed during the vaccination drive”.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in India in women, after breast cancer, accounting for nearly 5% of the total cancer burden, according to the government data. A recent study published in The Lancet Global Health journal observed that India is one of the high disease burden countries for cervical cancer, accounting for 21% of the cases and 23% deaths globally.

Bharat Arora, president of Action Committee of Unaided private Schools, an umbrella group of over 400 schools in Delhi, welcomed the move of providing the cervical vaccine primarily through schools. “Organizing cervical cancer vaccination drives in schools will make it possible for the government to cover maximum beneficiaries. It will also help in creating awareness among parents about the drive. We have recently seen schools being successfully organizing the covid-19 vaccination drive. Once launched, we will request all the 400-odd schools under our committee to take part in the drive aggressively and make it a successful initiative,” he said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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