GENEVA, Switzerland, March 8 (UPI) -- An alliance that helps developing nations said it will support vaccination of 1.5 million girls in Rwanda, Uganda and Uzbekistan against cervical cancer.
The GAVI Alliance, which brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, agencies and private philanthropists announced Saturday the vaccination of the girls against human papillomavirus -- which prevents cervical cancer -- will begin in Uganda and Uzbekistan in 2015.
"Cervical cancer is a scourge on women and their families in the world's poorest countries," Dr. Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of the GAVI Alliance, said in a statement.
"With limited access to screening and treatment, it is all the more important to vaccinate girls against HPV to give them the best protection possible against cervical cancer, which claims more than a quarter of a million women's lives (worldwide) every year."
Rwanda has already been running a successful HPV vaccination program thanks to a donation from a supplier.
However, Rwanda will switch from a vaccine manufacturer's donation to GAVI Alliance support this year to secure the sustainability of its existing national program.
The Alliance said it would support the HPV vaccination program with the country contributing towards every dose it receives via GAVI's co-financing policy.
"Three years ago, Rwanda became the first African country to implement a nationwide school-based, HPV immunization program, thanks to a donation," said Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, minister of health of Rwanda. "This month marks another 'first' as Rwanda shifts to GAVI-supported vaccination financing. Rwanda invests its own resources into co-financing vaccines from GAVI and so this transition marks an important step towards sustainability, and to ensure that every girl in Rwanda grows up without fear of this devastating killer."
The three countries have developed detailed plans to ensure that girls ages 10 to 12 are vaccinated with HPV vaccine in schools and also that those who are not in the classroom are reached in communities through outreach by health workers.