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Serum Institute expands production of cervical cancer vaccine ahead of mass immunization drive

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Pune: The Serum Institute of India is gearing up to significantly increase the production of its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in preparation for a government immunization campaign targeting the cancer-causing virus.

Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the world's largest vaccine manufacturer by the number of doses, anticipates the vaccine's inclusion in the government's program by the end of this year.

Poonawalla stated that the current market price of the vaccine is Rs 2,000, and it is India's first indigenous shot against HPV, a virus implicated in most cervical cancers globally.

"Our capacity at the moment is just a few million doses, but the demand is infinite. If we were to roll out 50 million doses in India, they would be used up, both in the private market and the government procurement scheme," said Poonawalla.

As part of the campaign to combat cervical cancer, the government plans to administer the HPV vaccine to girls aged between nine and 14 years. Although there is no official contract with the government yet, Poonawalla expects authorities to procure between 40 to 50 million doses through a tender process in December.

Poonawalla highlighted that the vaccine is expected to be "substantially, probably eight times, cheaper" when supplied to the government. Notable HPV vaccine manufacturers, such as Merck & Co and GSK Plc, may also bid for government contracts.

Serum Institute, known for producing AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine under the brand name Covishield, utilized its HPV facilities during the pandemic to manufacture Covishield. However, these facilities are not fully operational yet, restricting production capacity.

The company is in the process of applying for WHO's pre-qualification, and Poonawalla anticipates the export of HPV shots to other countries to commence in 2026.

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TAGS:Serum InstituteCervical Cancer Vaccine
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