‘Vaccine programmes should target HPV, cervical cancer’

June 1st, 2009 - 5:41 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) Medical experts have stressed on developing solutions for expansion of vaccine programmes to fight the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes several diseases, including cervical cancer.
As many as 150 health experts, policymakers and decision makers from 36 countries of the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions examined issues surrounding HPV vaccination implementation at a conference organised by the International Vaccine Institution (IVI) in Seoul Monday.

In the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions, around 1.3 billion women aged 15 years or older are at risk of developing cervical cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year there are more than 265,000 cases of cervical cancer in these regions. Of these, over 140,000 women die annually.

Deaths from cervical cancer in these regions represent over 50 percent of all cervical cancer deaths globally, of which one-third are from Southern Asia.

“With the introduction of two effective vaccines (the quadrivalent vaccine and the bivalent vaccine), we are now able to fight one of the leading killers of women in these regions,” John Clemens, IVI director general, was quoted as saying in a statement issued here.

“We still have a lot to accomplish and this symposium is an important first step in forging necessary public-private partnerships to facilitate the introduction of this vaccine into national immunization programmes,” Clemens said.

According to the statement, the WHO had published a position paper in April, recommending the introduction of routine HPV vaccines into national immunisation programmes where the prevention of cervical cancer and/or other HPV-related diseases (including cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis and anus) is a public health priority.

“Prior to the availability of preventative vaccines, HPV presented a daunting public health problem. Now, with the achievement of proven-effective vaccines, we have an opportunity to intercept the cause of one of the most common cancers found in women,” said F. Xavier Bosch, chief of the Catalan Institute of Oncology, Spain.

In the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions, majority of deaths from HPV occur in women in developing countries who do not have access to preventative health services, most notably, cervical cancer screening programmes. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer affecting women in these regions, the statement said.

To date, HPV vaccination strategies have been introduced in Australia, Taiwan and Turkey.

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