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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 17:49 GMT
Push to boost cancer jab access
Human papillomaviruses
Human papillomaviruses cause cervical cancer
International experts meeting in London are pushing for developing countries to get quick access to new vaccines against cervical cancer.

It is thought more than 250,000 lives could be saved each year if girls around the world were given the jab before they reached puberty.

But the biggest potential impact would be in developing countries, where 80% of cervical cancer deaths occur.

This is because they often lack screening and treatment programmes.

The world cannot afford to wait 20 years to begin saving women from cervical cancer
Nothemba Simelela
International Planned Parenthood Federation

More than 95% of women in the developing world never have a cervical smear test.

As a result, say experts, women in these countries with the disease face an undignified and protracted death.

Nothemba Simelela, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: "There is usually a 15 to 20 year delay between the time that new vaccines are approved in the West and the time they reach developing countries.

"The world cannot afford to wait 20 years to begin saving women from cervical cancer."

Protection

Merck & Co recently launched Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Cervarix is expected to be approved next year.

Both protect women against human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes most cases of the disease.

Now experts from 60 international agencies are meeting in London to try to come up with a strategy to ensure that developing countries don't have to wait many years for the vaccines.

But this will not be cheap, as immunisation requires three jabs, costing US$120 each.

Drug companies have indicated they will consider lower prices - but these are unlikely to reach a level where there would be no profit.

An American organisation called PATH is beginning to examine how to use the jab in India, Peru, Uganda and Vietnam.

Experts believe the vaccine will be most effective if given to girls aged under 13, because it protects against a sexually transmitted virus.

Dr Jacqueline Sherris, from PATH, said many people would need to work together.

She said: "There is an increasing commitment on the part of global community to supplement the cost of the vaccine in the initial years of its availability so companies can make the profit they need and at the same time it's affordable to poorer countries."


SEE ALSO
EU approves cervical cancer jab
22 Sep 06 |  Health

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