Late last week, the GAVI Alliance board announced its plan to fund the introduction of vaccines to fight HPV and rubella in developing countries. GAVI’s decision to fund the roll-out of these vaccines has the potential to protect up to two million women and girls from cervical cancer and 558 million children from rubella by 2015.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and causes approximately 275,000 cervical cancer deaths each year. As a result of limited access to screening and treatment, 88% of these deaths occur in developing countries.
Rubella, also known as the German measles, is another debilitating disease infecting low-income nations. If contracted by a woman early in her pregnancy, rubella infections can lead to congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). CRS causes severe growth and mental retardation, deafness and other developmental problems in fetuses. Nearly 100,000 cases of CRS occur each year in developing countries alone, representing 80% of the global burden.
GAVI’s funding announcement marks an important step in expanding access to these underutilized vaccines. Sabin has been active in advocating for these two diseases for years. Currently, Sabin is working throughout Asia, Africa and Europe to increase awareness about the burden of Rubella and CRS. In 2007, Sabin joined forces with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct acomprehensive study of HPV epidemiological data.
Advocacy activities and the generation of evidenced-based research are crucial to changing perceptions, creating demand and influencing policies and budgeting decisions. The HPV and Rubella vaccines represent a cost-effective method for preventing disease and Sabin is working to ensure these life-saving technologies are made available to those who need them most.