International Women's Day - joint statement from the GAVI Alliance and the Union for International Cancer Control

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 GAVI and Union for International Cancer Control join forces on International Women's Day, 8 March 2011, to call for rapid introduction of anti-cancer vaccine

Geneva, 8 March 2011 - Thankfully, women have more rights to health in 2011 than they did a century ago when the first International Women's Day was celebrated.

Yet, despite the progress, every year some 270,000 women die from cervical cancer and 500,000 receive a new diagnosis - 4 out of 5 of which are in developing countries. But now, safe and effective HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines are available that can prevent 70% of cervical cancer cases.

Benefits of HPV vaccines

Recognising the benefits of the HPV vaccines, many industrialised countries have already introduced them into routine immunisation for girls and young women. Many parents too have invested in their daughters' health by paying for the vaccines out of their family budget.

Developing countries, where the burden of cervical cancer is the highest, are also keen to provide the vaccines. But cost is a major barrier to introduction.

Accelerating the introduction

The GAVI Alliance is working with its partners to accelerate the introduction of HPV vaccines into poor countries by making the price affordable. It is also supporting the World Health Organization to develop guidelines for introduction. What is now needed is donor commitment.

On 13 June, the United Kingdom will co-host a pledging conference for GAVI in London. The GAVI Alliance needs US$ 3.7 billion to fully fund its 2011-2015 programme for immunisation and vaccines, including HPV vaccines introduction.

GAVI's strong track record

GAVI's track record with cancer vaccines is strong. The hepatitis B vaccine prevents a major cause of liver cancer. Over the past 10 years, GAVI has supported the immunisation of 267 million children against hepatitis B and averted an estimated 3.4 million deaths. The hepatitis B vaccine is now in routine use in most developing countries.

Over 80% of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur in developing countries, where cervical cancer is the second most common cancer-related cause of death among women. By supporting the introduction of HPV vaccines, GAVI will help those countries to stop a human and economic tragedy. When a woman dies from cervical cancer, she's usually at the prime of her life, generating family income and caring for children as well as other family members. HPV vaccines promise to turn the tide against this inequity and help women and girls achieve their right to good health.

Let's celebrate next International Women's Day with the words: HPV vaccines are available to all women and girls, everywhere.

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