GAVI support for HPV vaccines could significantly reduce the incidence of women and girls in developing countries contracting cervical cancer
Adolescent girls bicycle to Savelugu Junior Secondary School in the town of Savelugu, Northern region, Ghana. Source: Olivier Asselin/GAVI/2007.
Geneva, 8 March 2011 - On the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, the GAVI Alliance and Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) called for HPV vaccines to be made available to women and girls living in the poorest countries of the world.
Every year, some 270,000 women die from cervical cancer and another 500,000 receive a new diagnosis. Most of these women live in developing countries. But now, safe and effective HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines are available that can prevent 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Recognising the benefits of the HPV vaccines, many industrialised countries have already introduced them into routine immunisation for girls and young women. Developing countries, where the burden of cervical cancer is the highest, are also keen to provide the vaccines. But cost is a major barrier to introduction.
The GAVI Alliance is working with its partners to accelerate the introduction of HPV vaccines into poor countries by making the price affordable. It is also supporting the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for introduction.
GAVI's track record with cancer vaccines is strong. Over the past 10 years, GAVI has supported the immunisation of 267 million children against hepatitis B, a leading cause of liver cancer, and averted an estimated 3.4 million deaths. Hepatitis B vaccine is now in routine use in most developing countries.
Over 80% of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur in developing countries, where cervical cancer is the second most common cancer-related cause of death among women. When a woman dies from cervical cancer, she's usually at the prime of her life, generating family income and caring for children as well as other family members.
By supporting the introduction of HPV vaccines, GAVI will help those countries to stop a human and economic tragedy. HPV vaccines promise to turn the tide against inequity and help women and girls achieve their right to good health.