Health advocates in the capital called on authorities to include cervical cancer vaccine Papilovax, manufactured by Incepta Vaccine Ltd, in the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).
The vaccine is currently too expensive for the poor, they said, speaking at a seminar on cervical cancer on Tuesday at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, where Incepta Vaccine officially launched Papilovax.
The seminar was organised by the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Bangladesh and chaired by its president, Prof Dr Ferdousi Begum.
"One dose of the vaccine costs Tk2500 and poor people will not be able to afford it," said noted gynaecologist Prof Dr TA Chowdhury addressing the programme.
"The vaccine should be included in our immunisation programme," he said, adding that it is a good initiative that Incepta is producing Papilovax in the country, which was not available here previously.
He continued, "Our EPI is one of the best immunisation programmes in the world. This vaccine can be given to small girls using the programme's network."
Also speaking as chief guest on the occasion, National professor Dr Shahla Khatun said, "The government administered the cervical cancer vaccine to girls aged 9-12 years under a pilot project in 2005….Now the opportunity has come to give the vaccine privately, but the price should be reduced further.
"If it is included in the EPI, more people can be given the vaccine."
Farhana Lyzu, manager of Incepta Pharmaceuticals said women between the ages of 9-45 should receive three doses of Papilovax. The second dose should be taken one month after the first dose and the third dose should be administered six months after that.
Gynaecologists at the seminar recommended that girls between 9-14 years old are the most suitable candidates for the vaccine as its protection decreases with age.
They said older women should be screened before the vaccine is given. Also, it cannot be given to pregnant women.
Despite being preventable, cervical cancer is currently the second deadliest among different types of cancers that cause female deaths in Bangladesh. Every year more than 10,000 women die of the disease in the country and more than five crore women are at risk.
According to Incepta, Papilovax is available at public and private hospital vaccine centres, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital and the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital. It will soon be available at large pharmacies with vaccine storage systems.
Dr EH Arefin Ahmed, executive director of Incepta Pharmaceuticals, gave a vote of thanks at the seminar.