Guwahati, Nov. 23: A free immunisation drive against cervical cancer in Assam has run into rough weather with the Union health ministry yet to give its green light to the ambitious plan.
Sources told The Telegraph that the ministry had raised doubts whether Assam was well equipped and possessed technically-sound staff to administer vaccine doses to prevent cervical cancer among women particularly schoolgirls.
“The ministry has sent several queries to the state health department regarding safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Unless the Assam government comes out with satisfactory and convincing explanations, the Centre will not give its nod for the vaccination scheme,” the source said.
In June, Dispur announced to vaccinate 100,000 girl students against cervical cancer spending Rs 600 million from the public exchequer in a phased manner from October.
Assam has the highest number of cervical cancer patients in India, according to figures provided by the National Cancer Registry. The state government claimed that Assam was the first state to launch the free vaccination drive against the disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) that kills more than 74,000 women globally every year.
The HPV which is a combination of very common viruses also cause cancer of the vulva, vagina, anus and cancer in the head and neck. The virus transmitted through sexual intercourse and sexual contact is mostly prevalent in women who are from the disadvantaged background, have multiple sexual partners, early marriage or several children.
Sources said the Union ministry is extra cautious in allowing Assam to go ahead with the proposed immunisation scheme since there was adverse reaction when HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix, meant to prevent cervical cancer, allegedly caused deaths of six indigenous girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat in April.