Poonam Pandey likely to lead Centre’s cervical cancer awareness campaign

Earlier this month, news of Pandey's "death" from the disease dominated the headlines and led to intense debate on social media.

New Delhi: Actor Poonam Pandey is likely to be the brand ambassador of the government’s national campaign to spread awareness of cervical cancer.

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According to sources, Pandey and her team are in talks with the Union Health Ministry and the modalities are being worked out.

Earlier this month, news of Pandey’s “death” from the disease dominated the headlines and led to intense debate on social media. It later turned out that the news was fake and was a stunt pulled off by the actor and her team to spread “critical awareness” about cervical cancer.

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In a video, posted on her official Instagram page, Pandey on February 3 said, “I feel compelled to share something significant with you all ‘? I am here, alive.”

“Cervical cancer didn’t claim me, but tragically, it has claimed the lives of thousands of women who stemmed from a lack of knowledge on how to tackle this disease,” the 32-year-old added.

“Unlike some other cancers, cervical cancer is entirely preventable. The key lies in the HPV vaccine and early detection tests. We have the means to ensure no one loses their life to this disease.

“Let’s empower one another with critical awareness and ensure every woman is informed about the steps to take. Together, let’s strive to put an end to the devastating impact of the disease and bring #DeathToCervicalCancer,” she wrote.

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her interim budget speech said the government will encourage vaccination of girls in the age group of 9-14 years to prevent cervical cancer.

The Union health ministry had last month said it is closely monitoring incidence of cervical cancer in the country and is in regular touch with states and various health departments on this.

In June 2022, the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization recommended the introduction of HPV vaccine in the universal immunisation with “a one-time catch-up for 9-14 year-old adolescent girls followed with routine introduction at nine years”, the Rajya Sabha was told in March.

India is home to about 16 per cent of the world’s women, but accounts for about a quarter of all cervical cancer incidence and nearly a third of global cervical cancer deaths.

Indian women face a 1.6 per cent lifetime cumulative risk of developing cervical cancer and one per cent cumulative death risk from cervical cancer, officials had stated.

According to some recent estimates, every year almost 80,000 women develop cervical cancer and 35,000 die due to it in India.

Currently, the Serum Institute’s made-in-India vaccine against cervical cancer, CERVAVAC, is available in the private market for about Rs 2,000 per dose. MSD Pharmaceuticals Pvt Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck Sharp and Dohme (known as Merck and Co, Inc in the US and Canada) continues to sell its HPV vaccine Gardasil 4 (quadrivalent vaccine) in India which is currently priced at Rs 3,927 per dose.

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