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Serum Institute boosts cervical cancer vaccine supply

Pune:In a strategic move to combat cervical cancer, the Serum Institute of India has announced plans to significantly increase the production of its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The vaccine, presently priced at 2,000 rupees in the private market, stands as India’s pioneering indigenous solution against HPV, a virus implicated in the majority of cervical cancer cases worldwide.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer in terms of doses produced, revealed to Reuters that the company is gearing up to offer the vaccine to the government at more affordable rates for a large-scale immunization campaign slated for later this year. Poonawalla anticipates the vaccine to become an integral part of the government’s immunization program by the end of the year.

India's Serum boosts supply of cervical cancer shots ahead of government's  mass drive

“Our current production capacity is only a few million doses, but the demand is immense. If we were to roll out 50 million doses in India, they would be swiftly utilized, both in the private market and government procurement,” stated Poonawalla.

The government’s initiative targets the administration of the HPV vaccine to girls aged between nine and 14 years, addressing cervical cancer, the second-most prevalent cancer type among women in India. While no official contract has been established with the government, Poonawalla estimates that the authorities may procure between 40 to 50 million doses through a tender process in December.

Competing in the HPV vaccine market are other manufacturers such as Merck & Co and GSK Plc, who may also vie for government contracts. Poonawalla expressed the company’s commitment to the product and the anticipation of the vaccine becoming significantly more affordable when supplied to the government, potentially being up to eight times cheaper.

Serum Institute, renowned for producing AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine under the brand name Covishield, has faced operational constraints in its HPV facilities, initially repurposed for Covishield production during the pandemic. The company is currently in the process of obtaining the World Health Organization’s pre-qualification. Poonawalla expects the export of HPV shots to other countries to commence in 2026.

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