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The company’s plan to expand the vaccine production capacity from 2-3 million doses currently aligns with the government’s efforts to introduce the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer for girls aged 9-14 years, as announced in the interim budget by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
“Currently, SII has a production capacity of around 2-3 million doses for the Cervavac vaccine. That said, the company plans to considerably expand this capacity, with a target of reaching 60–70 million doses,” the spokesperson told Mint. The company did not disclose any financial or other details regarding the production boost.
The company said it has tied up with the Union health ministry for enrollment of the Cervavac vaccine under the pan-India immunization programme. National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), the highest advisory body on immunization in the country, has recommended the inclusion of the vaccine in the universal immunization programme (UIP).
While discussions on pricing for the government set-up are still preliminary, the vaccine’s inclusion in the UIP could dramatically increase its accessibility and impact.
“It would be too early to talk about the pricing. Cervavac vaccine is currently available in the private market and has seen a positive response as well. We will continue to build awareness about HPV and cervical cancer through various initiatives,” it added.
The company had in 2022 announced manufacturing the first indigenous vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer. Cervavac was launched in January 2023 for commercial use and is available in private hospitals at ₹2,000 for two doses.
Before SII’s vaccine, India was importing HPV vaccine mostly produced by Merck & Co. Merck’s Gardasil vaccine has two variants – quadrivalent vaccine known as quarda-4 and nonavalent 9, which is the latest vaccine. Gardasil-4 costs around ₹3,957 per dose, while the per-dose cost of Gardasil-9 is around ₹11,000.
States like Delhi had initially announced free HPV vaccine to adolescent girls which was made available in state-run Delhi State Cancer Institute (DSCI). However, the programme was discontinued owing to high cost.
Human papillomavirus vaccines prevent infection by certain types of human papillomavirus. Available HPV vaccines protect against either two, four, or nine types of HPV. All HPV vaccines protect against at least HPV types 16 and 18, which cause the greatest risk of cervical cancer.
According to the estimates released on 1 February by the World Health Organization (WHO)’s cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), India reported over 14.13 lakh new cancer cases in 2022, out of which 127,526 were cervical cancer.
Apart from Cervavac, SII is manufacturing a meningitis vaccine, MenFive, which is being developed through a 13-year collaboration between SII and PATH – a global non-profit organization, with crucial funding from the UK government. MenFive protects against the five predominant causes of meningococcal meningitis in the African continent.
The company is also working on Dengusiil – the first indigenous dengue vaccine – to make it market-ready. After a successful phase-I trial of the dengue vaccine in Australia, SII in November 2023 announced that it will soon begin Phase I and Phase II trials for its Dengusiil vaccine in India.
SII, which manufactures Covishield, said it is offering a variant of the XBB1 variant covid-19 vaccine which is very similar to the JN.1 variant in the US and Europe. “We are aiming to obtain licensure for this vaccine in India,” the company said.
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Published: 13 Feb 2024, 01:33 PM IST