Over 30 million girls to be immunized with HPV vaccines by 2020: GAVI

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-12-7 10:08:47

In an effort to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV by 2020 with GAVI support, the global health alliance announced on Thursday.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a public-private global health partnership committed to saving children's lives and protecting people's health by increasing access to immunization in poor countries, is holding the GAVI Alliance Partners Forum in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to explore ways to accelerate Results, Innovation, Sustainability and Equity in the field of immunization.

Speaking at a press conference, GAVI CEO Dr Seth Berkley said that an estimated 275,000 women die every year from cervical cancer, which means woman dies every two minutes from the disease.

"If we don't do better in prevention and treatment, it's expected to increase by 430,000 deaths each year by 2030," he said.

"The demand for HPV vaccines has exceeded expectations and we are looking forward to supporting developing countries in introducing these vaccines to protect adolescent girls against cervical cancer," he said, adding that HPV vaccines are the best hope to protect millions of girls against this deadly disease.

Rwanda and Uganda have been conducting HPV pilot projects through donations from vaccine manufacturers and are expected to roll out the vaccine nationwide with GAVI support in 2014.

By 2015, GAVI plans to immunize approximately one million girls with HPV vaccines and a large number of other countries are expected to run HPV pilot projects, and by 2020, more than 30 million girls will be immunized against HPV, Berkley said.

"I am very happy to see that GAVI is investing in HPV vaccines and offering our African girls the same access to life-saving vaccines as girls in developed countries," said Christine Kaseba, First Lady of Zambia and a leading advocate for women's health.

"Too many girls are robbed of their future by this cancer. I am personally committed to do what it takes to ensure that girls have access to HPV vaccines," she said.

One of the challenges to effectively delivering HPV vaccines is that many developing countries do not offer routine preventative health services for girls in the 9 to 13 age group. Other challenges include identifying the appropriate target group and ensuring the right infrastructure is in place to reach adolescent girls.

However, initial experience in offering HPV vaccinations in schools in Africa, Asia and Latin America has been encouraging. The introduction of HPV vaccines also provides many opportunities to strengthen adolescent health services, and exploit synergies with nutrition, HIV education, sexual and reproductive health.

"Making this life-saving vaccine more accessible and affordable presents an unprecedented opportunity to prevent the global threat of cervical cancer in the developing world, securing a brighter future for women and girls, who are the backbone of their families and communities," said Maria Blair, National Vice President of the American Cancer Society.

In the estimated 275,000 women die every year from cervical cancer, over 85 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries, where women often lack access to cervical cancer screening and treatment.

According to GAVI, HPV vaccines can protect against 70 percent of cervical cancer, and together with screening and treatment could prevent most cervical cancer. However, vaccination against HPV is only effective before the person is infected with the virus. Immunizing girls before sexual initiation, and before exposure to HPV infection, is a key strategy to preventing cervical cancer.

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