The GAVI Alliance announced on February 4th that it will provide HPV immunization programs to 8 developing countries. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer which 275,000 women die from annually, and 85% of that number live in developing countries. That’s a life lost every 2 minutes due to cervical cancer. Without changes in the current situation, cervical cancer related deaths are predicted to increase by 430,000 annually, starting in 2030.
The GAVI Alliance will start demonstration programs in Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. The demonstration programs is the selected countries will educate through experimentation and subsequently make an informed decision as to whether the programs should be expanded nationwide.
Seven of the countries will start providing HPV vaccines to girls 9 to 13 starting in 2013. Cervical cancer is best prevented through the immunization of girls before exposure to HPV infection making 9 to 13 the ideal age range. Once a person is infected with HPV, the vaccination is no longer effective.
Tanzania will wait until 2014 to participate. GAVI-eligible countries with already instated systems to distribute vaccines nationwide can apply for funding without undergoing the demonstration programs.
The vaccinations will be provided through schools and community health programs so that even girls who don’t attend school will have access. Through these demonstration programs, an estimated 180, 000 or more girls will be protected from HPV.
The HPV vaccines are administered in three doses. More than half a million doses will be necessary for the first round of HPV vaccines. This could be incredibly expensive, but GAVI aims to provide the HPV vaccines at a very affordable price in order to guarantee that the programs remain sustainable. To date, the best price is $5 a dose, which is a 64% reduction on the current lowest price.
UNICEF will procure the vaccines through the competitive pharmaceutical market. Currently, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) are the only manufacturers who have prequalified for the HPV vaccines.
A series of challenges face the implementation of demonstration programs in the developing countries. Many of the countries don’t offer regular health services for the girls aged 9-13. Additionally, it is difficult to ensure that the girls at the highest risk will be reached, and difficult to ensure that sexually transmitted cancer-causing infections are identified and prevented.
Yet, the initial HPV programs that have been implemented through schools in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have had positive results. Moreover, the introduction of HPV vaccines may also create the opportunity to improve other adolescent health services that focus on nutrition, HIV, as well as sexual and reproductive health.
Professor Ian Frazer, creator of the HPV vaccine said, “Today’s announcement of country approvals for HPV pilot projects is another big step forward to ensuring that girls living in developing countries enjoy the same access to HPV vaccines as girls elsewhere in the world.”
By 2015, GAVI intends to help more than 20 countries establish HPV vaccination programs that should protect an estimated one million girls. GAVI also expects to have more than 30 million girls vaccinated in over 40 countries by 2020.
– Kasey Beduhn
Source: allAfrica, NZweek
Photo: GAVI Alliance