An international cooperation of public and private entities announced today that it will fund the immunization of 180,000 girls in eight developing countries against human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of most cervical cancers.
Cervical cancer kills 275,000 women each year, 85% of them in poor countries. By 2030, rates are expected to climb to 430,000 deaths per year.
The GAVI Alliance, a public–private partnership focused on delivering vaccines to developing countries, is rolling out the programme in seven African countries — Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania — and in Laos. GAVI plans to expand the initiative to more than 20 countries and about one million girls by 2015.
The vaccine will be given to girls aged 9–13. One immediate challenge will be tracking down the girls for vaccination. GAVI chief executive Seth Berkley said the programmes will begin by targeting schoolchildren, but noted that girls who don’t attend school may also be those who are at highest risk for HPV. As a result, applicants to the programme had to develop plans to reach girls outside of school as well. Success in reaching this age group could open the door to delivering other public-health messages, including information about HIV and reproductive health, Berkley noted.
HPV vaccines are expected to be deployed in Ghana, Kenya and Sierra Leone early this year.