Sudha Murthy makes a pitch for affordable cervical cancer vaccine in maiden Rajya Sabha speech

Sudha Murty drew attention to the need for affordable and accessible cervical cancer vaccine for women's health at her debut Rajya Sabha speech.
Sudha Murty on cervical cancer vaccine
Sudha Murty draws attention towards cervical cancer vaccine and prevention. Image courtesy: Instagram | Sudha Murty
Radhika Bhirani Published: 4 Jul 2024, 10:53 am IST
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Philanthropist-author Sudha Murty was her usual endearing self as she advocated cervical cancer vaccination and awareness, during her debut Rajya Sabha speech. This women’s health issue was one of two concerns, including promotion of domestic tourism, raised at the upper house of the Indian Parliament by newly nominated MP.

Health is the most important for women: Sudha Murty

An engineer and educator, Murty took a strong stand for ‘nari shakti’ when she spoke about the importance of focussing on women’s health. She began with a Sanskrit shloka, and explained that it means, “Where women are respected, that is a place where the Gods reside.”

“I want to tell you that the most important thing for a woman in general is her health. That is because she always neglects her health and takes care of the family, and because of that, many women suffer in real life with cervical cancers. They come to the hospital only in the fourth stage or third stage. Being a daughter and a sister of doctors, I am aware of this,” said the 73-year-old, who is a former chairperson of the non-profit organisation Infosys Foundation.

She urged members of the Parliament to focus on increasing access and awareness around the cervical cancer vaccination.

“I want to give a suggestion. There is a vaccination which is given to girls between the age of 9 to 14. This is known as cervical vaccination. If the girls take if, this disease can be avoided. May I request the house that we should incorporate this vaccination for the benefit of our girls because prevention is better than cure,” added Murty.

Check out Sudha Murty’s Rajya Sabha speech here!

Cervical cancer happens to be the fourth most common cancer in women. In 2022, around 660,000 new cases were diagnosed and around 350,000 deaths were reported, according to the World Health Organization. While vaccination is important for prevention, awareness is equally important for early diagnosis and treatment. This is because cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treatable forms of cancer.

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On emotional note, Murty added: “My father, being a doctor, always used to tell me that when a woman dies or when a mother dies, it’s a count for a hospital. But for a family, a mother is lost forever. Maybe a man can get another wife, but children will never get another mother. A mother plays an important role, and cervical cancers are more common in the later part of life. So, I request that our government should look into this matter,” she added.

Cervical cancer vaccine can be made affordable: Sudha Murty

The septuagenarian reminded the parliamentarians that the Indian government had handled a huge vaccination drive during the Covid-19 pandemic. “So, this may not be very difficult, if you can vaccinate our girls in the (age group of) 9 to 14. This vaccination is developed in the West for a long time. It has already been given for the last 20 years. I tried one batch in my time 10 years back with government of Tamil Nadu… It worked very well. It is not expensive – around 1,400 rupees for persons like us who are in the field. But if the government intervenes and negotiates… the cost can be brought down to 700-800 rupees. We have such a long large population and it will benefit for our girls in future,” Murty said as she supported her stance.

The suggestion was received warmly at the Rajya Sabha, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling Murty’s thoughts “relevant”.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer, as the name suggests, is a type of cancer that occurs in the cells of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. It often has no symptoms in its early stages, which makes regular screening crucial for early detection and treatment.

It is mostly caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection which can affect the skin, genital area and throat. Persistent HPV infection of the cervix, if left untreated, causes 95 percent of cervical cancers, as per WHO.

Click here to read more about cervical cancer, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

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About the Author

Radhika Bhirani is a journalist with close to 15 years of experience in the Indian media industry. After writing extensively on health, lifestyle and entertainment, she leads the English content team at Health Shots. She has a special interest in writing on mental health and wellness. ...Read More

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