Why the HPV vaccine became a huge cause of concern and so much controversial in India? In a developing country like India where majority of the people live in villages, do you think that HPV vaccine can be an effective measure towards fight against cervical cancer? Discuss.

In India, trial of HPV vaccines donated by GSK and Merck and funded by the Gates Foundation was suspended last year after seven tribal girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat died during the trials. Currently, the matter is sub-judice but the anti-vaccine campaigns have caused a negative impression on HPV vaccines. Several multiple arguments of the critics include that administering children with an HPV vaccine might lead to enhanced sexual activity among youths; it may lead to mental retardation and suicidal thoughts etc. Many of them are based on unfounded beliefs and the controversy seems to be between ideologies versus scientific development. Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil has been recommended by Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) which monitors the adverse effects of these vaccines. Other than side effects, it has found not links of the vaccine with other effects including the death. However, it is true that clinical trials of these companies have been not fully transparent.
Majority of Indians live in villages and HPV vaccination is currently out of reach for most because of its cost and availability. Since cervical cancer (or any cancer) is not caused by a “vaccine deficiency; I think that Pap Smear Test is easiest and simplest test that can be administered at any location to prevent deaths. However, even this test is not within the reach of public in villages. Thus, in my view, government needs to strengthen the screening network for cervical cancer, apart from including HPV vaccine in the immunization programmes.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Why the HPV vaccine became a huge cause of concern and so much controversial in India? In a developing country like India where majority of the people live in villages, do you think that HPV vaccine can be an effective measure towards fight against cervical cancer?  Discuss.

Published: February 4, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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