The Hindu today reports that the Human Rights Law Network has brought a petition before the Supreme Court which effectively seeks to block access to HPV vaccines in both the private and the public sector in India. The petition may or may not get very far but it may cause yet another delay in Indians getting affordable access to vaccines which are used throughout much of the rest of the world. The full HRLN release is here.
The petition seeks to mix two issues: the safety of the vaccines and the way in which PATH (a charity) ran a demonstration project on the feasibility of implementing HPV vaccination in India. The former question is thought settled by the global scientific community: the two vaccine named in the petition are in use throughout Europe, North America and most of the rest of the world. It seems that almost all adolescents receiving private care in India get them. The latter question is much more complex but is not linked inherently to the safety of the vaccines (there were some deaths among girls who had been immunised but they resulted from things such as malaria and snakebite and the links to the vaccine may not be obvious).
HLRN seems to be arguing that it takes more than 20 years for most cases of HPV to turn into cervical cancer so no vaccine can be approved until a cohort of women in India has been monitored for much longer than 20 years. If the vaccines work in the way that the rest of the world is convinced they do, millions of women in India will, in the meantime, die in great pain with the terrible loss of dignity brought by the symptoms of late-stage cervical cancer. What a pity that the media in India seem incapable of giving those women a voice.