Responding to demand from developing countries, the GAVI Alliance has taken the first steps towards the introduction of Human papillomavirus (HPV) and rubella vaccines in developing countries, it was announced today.
If a sustainable price with manufacturers can be agreed, and countries can demonstrate their ability to deliver the vaccines, up to two million women and girls in nine countries could be protected from cervical cancer by 2015.
The GAVI Board also agreed to fund vaccines against the rubella virus, which threatens pregnancies and child health. The plan is to reach 588 million children by 2015.
“These two initiatives have huge potential impact for women and families in the developing world,” said Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI. “The HPV vaccine is critical to women and girls in poorer countries because they usually do not have access to screening to prevent cervical cancer and treatment taken for granted in richer nations. Today, we have taken deliberate first steps to correct this inequity,” he added.
Highly transmissible, HPV causes approximately 275,000 cervical cancer deaths each year, of which 88% occur in developing countries. Experts say this figure could increase to 430,000 by 2030 if action is not taken. Safe and effective HPV vaccines may prevent 70% of cervical cancer cases. HPV also causes other more rare cancers in both men and women.
Addressing the GAVI Board on 15 November at an event organised by the Bangladeshi Health Ministry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon encouraged the Alliance, other global health partners and the pharmaceutical industry to “deliver the promise of a future free from the threat of cervical cancer to millions of young women thanks to the HPV vaccine.”
“Investing in their health and their future is the best investment we can make,” Mr Ban added, a year after he launched his Every Women Every Child strategy which GAVI pledged to support with vaccines including HPV and rubella.