Cervical cancer: 90% deaths in low and middle income countries with least access to HPV vaccine, screening

These countries also have low rates of vaccination against HPV

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 17 November 2021
90% cervical cancer deaths in low and middle income countries with least access to HPV vaccine, screening

Nine out of 10 women who die of cervical cancer live in low- and middle-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Day of Action for Cervical Cancer Elimination November 17, 2021. 

These countries also have low rates of vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the cancer, due to skewed distribution, it added. 

Most HPV vaccine consignments go to wealthier nations, driving a gap in access similar to the inequitable distribution of vaccines against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) since the beginning of this year, according to the United Nations health agency. 

The vaccine has not been introduced in around 80 countries, which record nearly two-thirds the incidences of cervical cancer, said WHO. “Globally, just 13 per cent of girls between nine and fourteen years were vaccinated against HPV in 2020.”

Last month, WHO granted prequalification to Ceolin, the fourth HPV vaccine candidate manufactured by Xiamen Innovax Biotech Co Ltd to bridge this gap. 

In the second year of its global initiative to eradicate cervical cancer, the health organisation launched new measures to improve screening, access to vaccines and treatment. 

It outlined guidelines for artificial intelligence-based screening technologies to help developers and ensure pre-cancers are detected early enough. 

Princess Nono Simelela, special advisor to the WHO director-general on strategic priorities, including cervical cancer elimination, said: 

While we have seen major advances in new technologies and research, the critical next step is to ensure these are designed for and accessible in low- and middle-income countries, and that the health and rights of women and girls everywhere are prioritized in the recovery from the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The COVID-19 pandemic, while strengthening health infrastructure in most countries, shifted focus away from cervical cancer elimination efforts. 

HPV vaccination rates across the world educed to 13 per cent in 2020 from 15 per cent in 2019 as a result of pandemic-induced disruptions, according to WHO. 

But despite the global crisis, the HPV vaccine was introduced in seven countries — Cameroon, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Mauritania, Qatar, Sao Tome and Principe, and Tuvalu — bringing the total to 115, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said.

Partners to the initiative also pledged support in the form of boosting testing and screening in low- and middle-income countries and funding research in countries “with high comorbidity and coinfection of HIV and HPV-associated cancers”.

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