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Leaders of Civil Society and UN Agencies Call for Rapid Worldwide Access to New Cervical Cancer Vaccines

2006-12-12 16:34

Greatest Need for Vaccines Seen in Women and Girls in Developing Countries

LONDON, Dec. 12 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- A landmark conference of civil

society leaders and global policymakers today called for immediate action to

ensure rapid global access to new cervical cancer vaccines that have the

potential to save a quarter million lives a year. Cervical cancer is the

second most common cancer among women, and 80 percent of cervical cancer

deaths occur in the developing world, where access to screening and treatment

is extremely limited. Newly proven vaccines protect women against human

papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes virtually all cases of cervical

cancer.

"There is usually a 15 to 20 year delay between the time that new

vaccines are approved in the West and the time they reach developing

countries," said Dr. Nothemba Simelela, Director of Technical Knowledge and

Support at the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF). "The

world cannot afford to wait 20 years to begin saving women from cervical

cancer."

Health experts believe that HPV is among the fastest-growing sexually

transmitted infections worldwide. Approximately 500,000 new cases of

cervical cancer are reported annually. In industrialized countries, expanded

screening and treatment have dramatically reduced cervical cancer rates over

the last 60 years. But in developing countries, where more than 95 percent

of women never have a pap smear, the death rate from cervical cancer

continues to rise.

Merck & Co. licensed the first HPV vaccine earlier this year. A second

vaccine, produced by GlaxoSmithKline, is expected to be licensed in 2007.

These new HPV vaccines are nearly 100 percent effective in protecting against

the two most virulent forms of HPV, which together cause 70 percent of

cervical cancers. These new vaccines represent the first vaccines for

cancer, the first vaccines primarily for women and adolescents, and the first

vaccines for a reproductive health challenge.

Today’s meeting, titled "Stop Cervical Cancer: Accelerating Global

Access to HPV Vaccines," is the first international forum to address the full

range of issues that impede global access to HPV vaccines. Health experts

and officials at the meeting, held at the Royal College of Physicians in

London, discussed ways to rapidly introduce HPV vaccines. Key barriers to

delivering the vaccines to women include low levels of awareness, delivery

challenges in developing countries, financing, regulatory and manufacturing

issues, and lack of political support.

"Both political and economic commitments, along with innovative service

delivery strategies, will be necessary to ensure that the vaccine is made

available to women around the world," said Dr. Jacqueline Sherris, Strategic

Program Leader for Reproductive Health at PATH. "It is essential to identify

creative ways to locate new resources, including combining funds from

external donors and national governments. We must raise awareness in

countries where the need for these vaccines is greatest."

Meeting participants called on the international community to support the

World Health Organization’s prioritisation of HPV vaccines for fast-tracked

prequalification. They also appealed to international stakeholders to

continue forging critical partnerships across communities at global and local

levels to fight cervical cancer. In addition to raising awareness in

developing countries and building donor support, the meeting aimed to launch

a larger movement working to ensure access to HPV vaccines.

The meeting brought together more than 60 key leaders from multilateral

agencies, civil society, government, philanthropies and the pharmaceutical

industry. It was convened by six non-profit organizations: the Rockefeller

Foundation, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the

International Union Against Cancer, PATH, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy

Coalition, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Civil society

participants represented a diverse group of non-profits working on cancer,

reproductive health, youth issues and HIV.

In addition to the co-conveners and other civil society leaders,

participants included officials from WHO, the UN Population Agency, the GAVI

Alliance, Merck & Co., GlaxoSmithKline, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,

and the governments of Brazil, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United

Kingdom, Uganda and Vietnam. Scholarships were also provided for 14 health

leaders from 12 developing countries.

"Each stakeholder has a role to play in preventing cervical cancer," said

Isabel Mortara, executive director of the International Union Against

Cancer. "This meeting is unique because it brings the key sectors to the

table before the vaccines are widely in use. Partnerships across sectors and

innovative health delivery approaches can help ensure global access to these

new vaccines."

Source: Global Health Strategies
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