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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Declares Government Emphasis on Cervical Cancer Vaccination

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, on February 1, revealed the government's initiative to prioritize cervical cancer vaccination for girls aged 9 to 14 in the Interim Budget 2024. Alongside this, she announced several other health-related schemes, including extending Ayushman Bharat coverage to all Asha workers, Anganwadi workers, and helpers. Presenting the final Budget before the general elections, Sitharaman incorporated measures for the economy, farmers, and women. Using the platform to highlight past government schemes, she presented the Budget as a roadmap towards a "vikshit Bharat" or developed India by 2047.

Cervical cancer, originating in a woman's cervix, stands as the second most prevalent cancer among Indian women. This type of cancer is primarily attributed to persistent infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV). India bears the burden of almost a quarter of global cervical cancer fatalities.

In March, the Rajya Sabha disclosed that, based on updated evidence regarding disease burden, the efficacy of a single dose of the HPV vaccine, clinical trial results, and the experience of the Sikkim government in vaccine implementation, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization recommended incorporating the HPV vaccine into universal immunization.

Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra have the highest number of cases

The proposal suggests a one-time catch-up for 9-14-year-old adolescent girls, followed by routine introduction at nine years. Presently, the Serum Institute's indigenous cervical cancer vaccine, CERVAVAC, is available in the private market for approximately Rs 2,000 per dose. MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd continues to offer its HPV vaccine, Gardasil 4, in India at the current price of Rs 3,927 per dose.

The Finance Minister declared a government emphasis on establishing additional medical colleges by leveraging existing hospital infrastructure in the nation. To facilitate this, a committee will be instituted to provide pertinent recommendations, as stated by Ms. Sitharaman.

Furthermore, she disclosed plans to consolidate schemes related to maternal and child healthcare into a comprehensive program. Ms. Sitharaman highlighted the upgrading of Anganwadi centers, expeditious nutrition delivery, and other initiatives aimed at enhancing early childhood care.

In addition, Ms. Sitharaman revealed the launch of the U-WIN platform nationwide for efficient management of immunizations.

Sources- THE HINDU



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