BMC steps in to help women fight cancer



April 8, 2010

Mumbai: Undeterred by the complications arising out of clinical trials of human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) plans to introduce the vaccine in the city in its fight against cervical cancer.

“Two manufacturers have offered the vaccines at a subsidised rate. Considering the rising incidence in the city of cervical cancer, we are planning to implement the cervical cancer control programme with the vaccines,” said Dr Sanjay Oak, dean, KEM Hospital, and medical director, major hospitals on Thursday.

The vaccine is mandatory for girls in Australia, France and the US. In India, the Indian Association of Paediatrics (IAP) as well as the Federation of Obstreticians and Gynaecologists Society of India (FOGSI) have recommended it.

The vaccine does have some minus points, Oak admitted. “Side-effects of the vaccine include fever and rashes. But every vaccine is a foreign protein injected into your body, which is capable of producing an adverse reaction,” said Oak. “But it is the cost of the vaccine, and not its side-effects, that pose a big problem,” he added. The vaccine costs about Rs2,800 per dose. It is targeted at women, in the age group of nine to 26, and has to be given in three doses at 0 (first date of injection), 2 and 6 months.

With premarital sex getting more and more common, there is a rising incidence of cervical cancer cases, that too among the younger female population. This, feels the civic health department, is the right time to take active steps to fight the most prevalent cancer among women, whether it is by offering subsidised vaccines or by urging women to take a pap smear test at regular intervals.

In the UK, women undergo pap smear every three years under the National Health Scheme (NHS) and in the US, every year. “In India, many women don’t even know where the cervix is, let alone opting for a pap smear test which costs about Rs600,” said Dr Padma Vishawa-nathan, gynaecologist.

“Ensuring that the women take all the three doses is a problem. Therefore, we are going to first target the educated class, who will be able to take an informed voluntary decision,” said Oak.

“A big worry is that the quadrivalent vaccine offers protection only against four types of viruses out of the 16. Even after receiving the vaccine, you still need to get pap smear tests done. Also, it is not 100% efficacious,” said gynaecologist Dr Pratima Chippalkatti, Bombay Hospital, who has offered the vaccine to three of her patients. According to another gynaecologist, the demerits of the vaccine far outnumber its merits.


Sentences in italics are false.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.