Protecting Lives: GAVI Provides HPV Vaccine in the Developing World

By Mandana Mofidi

Nov 21, 2011 11:32pm

While the HPV vaccine is the subject of hot debate in the United States, the high price of the vaccine makes it unavailable in most of the world- until recently. Last Thursday, GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) took the first pivotal steps to providing vaccines against cervical cancer in developing countries where close to 90 percent of the 275,000 yearly deaths occur.  Human papillomavirus, or HPV, which claims the life of a woman every two minutes, is a common and highly transmissible sexual infection that can lead to cervical cancer in women.  Plans to provide the HPV vaccine could prevent 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.

“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,” said Seth Berkley MD, CEO of GAVI in a statement. “Today, we have taken deliberate first steps to correct this inequity.”

Up to two million women and girls in nine developing countries could be protected from cervical cancer by 2015 once negotiations with Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, which make the two approved HPV vaccines, are finalized.

“This important announcement from GAVI builds on the enormous progress made this year in the fight against cancer and other noncommunicable diseases. We know that HPV vaccines can help prevent 70 percent of the 500,000 cervical cancer cases each year. In developing countries, where 88 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur, it is critical for women to have access to this lifesaving vaccine,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer, American Cancer Society, from the World Cancer Leadership Summit in Dublin.

Strengthening their commitment to improving health in the world’s poorest countries, GAVI also set into motion plans to provide rubella vaccines to the countries that need it the most.  Rubella is a vaccine-preventable disease caused the rubella virus which is often harmless but has serious consequences for pregnant women resulting in miscarriages, stillbirths, and infants being born with severe birth defects leading to life-long disabilities.

The implementation of GAVI’s rubella vaccine will provide children between the ages of 9 months and 14 years with long-term protection while averting millions of preventable deaths and helping women and children in the world’s poorest country life without the fear of the virus.

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