TANZANIA — The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV), known as Gardasil, protects women against cervical cancer. Ninety percent of women that die from cervical cancer live in developing countries. Tanzania is taking a stance against cervical cancer, but also looks to lessen the gap between rich and poor women worldwide.
Dar es Salam is the home to the only specialized facility for cancer treatment center in Tanzania, the Ocean Road Cancer Center. This is a service that Tanzanian women increasingly need.
HPV is almost 100 percent preventable. It is because developing countries lack the necessary early screenings for HPV that causes many women to become victims of cervical cancer. Many wealthier countries have already introduced this vaccine, causing a health gap between wealthy and poor women.
It is said that “by 2035, cervical cancer is expected to cause 416,000 women to die every year, overtaking even childbirth as the number one killer of women worldwide”.
There is a vaccine available to prevent cervical cancer, and the deaths associated with it. Not all developing countries have access to this vaccine, the place where it is needed the most. However, there is hope for Tanzania.
With the support of Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, Tanzania is one of several countries running HPV vaccine demonstration projects. To run these demonstration projects, healthcare providers are vaccinating adolescent girls at school.
The vaccine demonstration programs will also be held at community centers to reach out to girls that do not attend school.
Gavi is also creating HPV demonstration programs in Ghana, Kenya, Lao PDR, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone.
Gavi is partnering with UNICEF, who will be able to procure the vaccines. Currently, only Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (MSK) are the manufacturers of prequalified HPV vaccines.
However, the affordability of the vaccine is still a problem for developing countries. One manufacturer has announced the sale of the vaccine to be five dollars per dose. There is still hope that the vaccines will continues to decrease in cost.
Affordability is not the only challenge that developing countries face when introducing the HPV vaccine. In order to maintain screenings and the vital routine health services for the girls, a change must be made in the healthcare systems of developing countries.
Gavi is supporting a “learn by doing” campaign, which will test the success of the vaccine before expanding its efforts throughout the countries.
Along with the introduction of the HPV vaccine is the window of opportunity to strengthen other adolescent health services, information about nutrition, HIV and sexual and reproduction health.
By 2020, Gavi hopes to have vaccinated over 30 million adolescent girls against HPV in more than 40 of the world’s poorest countries.
– Kerri Szulak
Sources: Gavi the Vaccine Alliance 1, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance 2, Merck
Photo: Merck Responsibilty