The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will, in all likelihood, not introduce a cervical cancer vaccine in its universal immunisation programme, the The Indian Express reported, quoting sources in the ministry.
The decision comes just days after the economic wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi against the vaccine, the report said.
Cancer of the uterine cervix, or cervical cancer, is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India. Nearly a lakh women die of the disease every year in the country. India’s universal immunisation programme – a central government-funded scheme – aims to ensure that women and children get better access to essential vaccines.
Gardasil and Glaxosmithkline market the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine in India. It is mainly used in the private sector. A single dose costs around Rs 3,000 and two to three doses are necessary for vaccination.
According to the news report, a technical advisory body on immunisation is still mulling over whether to include the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine to treat cervical cancer in the programme. However, the Health Ministry is unlikely to include the vaccine regardless of the decision of this body – the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation – the report said, quoting highly placed sources in the ministry.
The advisory body discussed introducing the vaccine into the programme at a meeting on December 19, but did not come to a decision. But in the days before the meeting, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch wing of the RSS reportedly wrote to the prime minister.
The wing’s national co-convener Ashwani Mahajan said they were worried that the programme will divert “scarce resources from more worthwhile health initiatives” to a vaccine of “doubtful utility”.
“Swadeshi Jagran Manch requests you to stop this move to introduce Human Papilloma Virus 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,” the letter said, according to The Indian Express.