NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer will be administered to 1.5 million young girls in Rwanda, Uganda and Uzbekistan under a new programme announced by the GAVI Alliance on Saturday.
The GAVI Alliance, a global public-private partnership dedicated to increasing access to immunisation in developing countries, will support national vaccination initiatives in those three countries against human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of cervical cancer.
The programmes will target girls between the ages of 10 and 12. Immunization before the start of sexual activity and possible exposure to the virus is a key strategy to prevent cervical cancer.
“Cervical cancer is a scourge on women and their families in the world’s poorest countries,” Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, said in a statement. “With limited access to screening and treatment, it is all the more important to vaccinate girls against HPV to give them the best protection possible against cervical cancer, which claims more than a quarter of a million women’s lives every year.”
The national rollouts of the programme in Uganda and Uzbekistan will begin in 2015, immunising girls both in and out of school through vaccinations in the classroom and in communities. Girls will receive three doses of the vaccine over a six-month period.
Rwanda, which has run a successful school-based national HPV vaccination programme for three years on the basis of a supplier donation, will ensure long-term coverage by switching over to GAVI-supported co-financing this year.
“Rwanda invests its own resources into co-financing vaccines from GAVI and so this transition marks an important step towards sustainability, and to ensure that every girl in Rwanda grows up without fear of this devastating killer,” Rwandan Minister of Health Dr Agnes Binagwaho said in a statement.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, of the estimated 266,000 women who die every year from cervical cancer more than 85 percent live in low-income countries. Without improvements in prevention, annual deaths from cervical cancer are expected to rise to 416,000 by 2035, with over 95 percent of deaths occurring among women in poor countries.
In addition to the national programmes in Rwanda, Uganda and Uzbekistan, GAVI said that over the next three years it will support HPV vaccine demonstration projects in Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Senegal, Solomon Islands and Togo.