Punjab launches HPV vaccine with WHO support

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination was launched in the districts of Bathinda and Mansa in Punjab by Principal Secretary Health, Mrs Vini Mahajan on 23 November 2016, with technical support from WHO Country Office for India.

Punjab is the first state in the country to include HPV vaccination in its immunization programme.

Present on the occasion were officials from Directorate General Health Services, Government of India; Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh and WHO.

Welcoming the initiative of the Punjab government, Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India said, “HPV vaccination is one of the best buys to prevent cervical cancers.” “The current initiatives of the government are commendable, both at the Centre and in Punjab. It is also important that we have a comprehensive approach to the prevention and management of cervical cancers, including screening, early detection and vaccination against the human papilloma virus,” he added.

Cancer of cervix is the second leading site of cancer among females with relative proportion (cancer) of 13% in Punjab. The average age adjusted incidence rates (AARs) of cancer of cervix in females for 14 districts in Punjab was 11.2 per lakh population in 2012-2013.

WHO has supported the Government of Punjab for the introduction of human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination. The technical assistance to the state encompasses: assessing district/state preparedness; developing operational guidelines, including capacity-building of immunization managers and health workers; updating recording, reporting and tracking tools; and monitoring of HPV introduction during the preparatory and implementation phase.

The HPV vaccine is being rolled out in two districts and will subsequently be expanded to the rest of the state. In phase one, close to 10 000 girls studying in class six of government schools were covered reflecting a 95% mobilization which shows enormous commitment.