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Explained: What is The 'Gender' Factor in New HPV Vaccine?

By: Saumya Kalasa

News18

Last Updated: October 05, 2021, 22:02 IST

Bengaluru

Until now, giving the HPV vaccine to men is not practiced in India. (File photo/News18)

Until now, giving the HPV vaccine to men is not practiced in India. (File photo/News18)

The new HPV vaccine is termed ‘gender neutral’ to bring in that awareness and push the population to go forward and get vaccinated.

The first gender-neutral HPV vaccine, GARDASIL 9, was launched by MSD Pharmaceuticals on Wednesday and since then people have been talking about it. It is the 9-valent Human Papillomavirus (Types 6, 11, 16,18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58 ) vaccine that will help reduce the diseases burden and cancers caused by the HPV types contained in the vaccine, among girls and women (aged 9-26 years) and boys (9-15 years). Here an oncologist has explained the ‘gender’ factor in the vaccine:

So far any vaccine-associated with gender is unheard of, at least not by common people. But, this new HPV vaccine is expected to give protection to a larger bracket of the society against a variety of cancers and other ailments and largely cervical cancer, the experts noted. Dr Vijay Agarwal, Head Consultant-Medical Oncology, Aster CMI Hospital has simplified the whole issue.

ALSO READ: India’s First Gender-Neutral HPV Vaccine Launched. Know Who Can Get the Jab & Dose Regimen

“Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is said to be one of the major reasons for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer leading to ‘death by cancers’ in India. The HPV vaccine is available under various brand names in India. But it is not included in the National Immunization Program whereas several western countries have it," he said.

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The commonest cause of cervical cancer is by two variants of HPV namely Type 16 and Type 18. This is a sexually transmitted disease. Hence the vaccine is administered before a person becomes sexually active i.e. between 9 to 26 years of age. Cervical cancer is commonly seen in women who hail from low socio-economic families. The currently available vaccines are expensive making it all the worse.

Until now, giving the HPV vaccine to men is not practiced in India. Firstly, because the target protection area is cervical cancer and hence women are counted. Secondly, because a larger population of women have not got access to the vaccine yet.

There is yet another reason that oncologists noted: The most common cancer caused by HPV in men is oral cancer though the number is comparatively very low since tobacco is the leading cause of oral cancers in India.

Late diagnosis

Irregular menstrual cycle and excessive bleeding are the most common symptoms of cervical cancer which is ignored to a greater extent. There is also a lack of awareness and education that makes many women end up in hospital during the final stages of cancer, observed Dr Agarwal in his daily practice.

Coming back to the gender factor of the new HPV vaccine. If men are also vaccinated, the transmission of infection to women can be majorly avoided. Vaccinating both boys and girls should happen at the age of 10 to 13 years. Parents themselves should be made aware of the importance of the vaccine so that majority of the population is vaccinated and several related ailments can be controlled. Cervical cancer will drastically drop for sure, the doctor said.

The new vaccine is termed ‘gender neutral’ to bring in that awareness and push the population to go forward and get vaccinated. Any step towards the better overall health of the society certainly should be considered, he concluded.

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first published:October 05, 2021, 22:02 IST
last updated:October 05, 2021, 22:02 IST