Human papillomavirus vaccine support

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300,000 girls immunised against HPV with Gavi support

Coverage reported from demonstration programmes encouragingly high

Record low price for HPV vaccines

HPV demonstration project Lao PDR

In October 2013, Lao PDR became the first Asian country to begin a HPV demonstration programme with GAVI support. The country also launched pneumococcal vaccine nationwide at the same time. Credit: Gavi/2013/Bart Verweij.

Since the first human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine demonstration programme in Kenya in 2013, 300,000 girls have been vaccinated with Gavi support – a figure expected to rise to one million by the end of 2015.

In 2014, Gavi helped seven countries to initiate HPV vaccine demonstration programmes – the first step towards national introductions. The Vaccine Alliance also started to fund Rwanda’s national HPV programme, first launched in 2011.

Initial evaluation suggests that Gavi-supported HPV programmes are successfully demonstrating the feasibility of vaccinating adolescent girls. The first countries to run demonstration programmes all reported 60–90% coverage rates – well above the 50% required to apply to the Vaccine Alliance for national support.

However, reports also identified challenges, mainly associated with keeping the cost of delivering HPV vaccine low:

  • Using schools to administer the vaccine has proven successful, but efforts to reach out-of-school girls and align vaccination sessions with the school calendar will require significantly more resources.
  • It is taking longer than expected for countries to take on board lessons learned from their demonstration programmes.

Record low price

A record low price for HPV vaccines has created an opportunity for developing countries to vaccinate millions of girls against a devastating women’s cancer.

Thanks to the Vaccine Alliance, the poorest countries now have access to a sustainable supply of HPV vaccines for as little as US$ 4.50 per dose. The same vaccines can cost more than US$ 100 in high-income countries, and the previous lowest public sector price was US$ 13 per dose.

In addition, WHO’s decision to switch from a recommended schedule of three doses to two doses will help to facilitate country roll-outs and reduce costs.

Gavi supports HPV vaccines for national introduction and demonstration programmes

Immunisation coupled with screening and treatment is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer. However, the high cost of the vaccine and challenges of reaching adolescent girls to deliver immunisation have been barriers to introduction in poorer countries.

Gavi is working to bridge the equity gap by providing the vaccine at affordable and sustainable prices, and to support countries with demonstration programmes to build capacity and test different approaches to deliver the vaccine to adolescent girls.

WHO recommends that countries use delivery strategies that are compatible with their health delivery infrastructure and cold-chain capacity; are affordable, cost-effective and sustainable; and achieve the highest possible coverage.

Priority should be given to strategies that include populations who are less likely to have access to screening for cervical cancer later in life. Opportunities to link vaccine delivery to other health programmes targeting adolescent girls should also be explored.

Gavi’s support

Gavi’s commitment to protecting women against cervical cancer supports the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health to address key global health priorities by increasing access to life-saving vaccines.

Gavi provides support for HPV demonstration programmes and the national introduction of HPV vaccines. The type of support provided by Gavi depends on a country’s demonstrated ability to deliver vaccines to young adolescent girls. 

Countries that have demonstrated that they are able to deliver HPV vaccine to young adolescent girls1 may apply for Gavi support for the national introduction of HPV vaccines.

Countries lacking experience can apply for support to conduct smaller-scale demonstration programmes to gain the experience necessary to apply for national roll-out.

Gavi is partnering with cancer societies, reproductive health and women’s organisations to help countries deliver HPV vaccines cost-effectively and assess opportunities for integrated delivery with other important interventions for girls. These include adolescent reproductive health, HIV prevention, nutrition, family planning and safe motherhood.

Initial experience in offering HPV vaccination in Africa and Asia has been encouraging. Lessons learnt documents are available through the Reproductive Health Outlook Cervical Cancer library.

WHO, the Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention, the Cervical Cancer Action coalition and the UNFPA have called for comprehensive cervical cancer prevention plans that include both vaccination of young girls and screening and treatment of women.


Many organisations are actively involved with clinical and operational research, policy analysis and advocacy related to HPV vaccine. Collaborating partners and their main roles include:

World Health Organization (WHO) offers technical information, standards and guidelines and in country planning and training; 

PATH supports operational research to inform decisions about how to introduce HPV vaccines;

UNICEF provides a market informational note for HPV vaccines, highlighting current and projected demand, as well as anticipated supply availability during 2014–2017, brings expertise in social mobilisation and demand generation;

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) brings expertise in reproductive health and identification of adolescent girls population estimates;

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) carries out epidemiological studies assessing HPV type-specific prevalence among various populations;

The Cervical Cancer Action coalition furthers advocacy and education;

Alliance for Cervical Cancer Prevention provides news, resources, advocacy and information;

Vaccine manufacturers and academia conduct clinical research;

Gavi offers financial support for the introduction of vaccines into the routine immunisation system in eligible countries.

1 Defined as prior experience in delivering multiple-dose schedule vaccines to at least 50% of a one-year cohort selected from the population of 9–13 year old girls in at least one district of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women in Gavi-supported countries

HPV vaccines aren’t routinely available in countries with the highest burden

HPV vaccines aren’t routinely available in countries with the highest burden. | View full size image.

The growing burden of cervical cancer

An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer. Over 85% of these deaths occur among women in developing countries, where access to cancer screening and treatment services is often lacking. Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are forecast to rise to 416,000 by 2035, virtually all of which will be in developing countries.

Most cervical cancer is caused by a sexually transmitted infection – human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is highly transmissible and infection is very common. 

Immunisation coupled with screening and treatment is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer. In resource-poor countries where women often lack access to cancer screening and treatment services, immunising girls before exposure to HPV is critical.

HPV vaccines

Safe and effective HPV vaccines, which protect against the strains that cause approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases, are available in the routine immunisation programmes of most high-income countries. 

Two HPV vaccines have been licensed in over 100 countries, many of which are supported by Gavi. Countries are required to vaccinate girls on a two-dose schedule. However, girls with an impaired immune system will still require a three-dose schedule. 

WHO recommends HPV vaccination of girls aged 9–13 years through national immunisation programmes in countries where cervical cancer is a public health priority, vaccine introduction is feasible, sustainable financing can be secured and vaccines are considered cost-effective.  

High prices have been a major barrier to introducing these vaccines in developing countries, where the cervical cancer burden is highest. Thanks to the Vaccine Alliance and its partners, the poorest countries now have access to a sustainable supply of HPV vaccines for as little as US$ 4.50 per dose.


Ian Frazer

Professor Ian Frazer
creator of the HPV vaccine

“Today’s announcement by GAVI of country approvals for HPV demonstration projects is another big step forward to ensuring that girls living in developing countries enjoy the same access to HPV vaccines as girls elsewhere in the world. ” 

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