It was wonderful returning to Geneva, a place I called home for eight years, albeit for just a day. The purpose was mighty: To build support for our exciting new global immunization initiative — The Global HPV Consortium, a first of its kind public- private initiative, led by Sabin Vaccine Institute.
Though time was short, the dinner meeting was eminently productive in coalescing Sabin’s vision for this collaborative. We saw great contributions from esteemed colleagues such as Juan Pablo Uribe, MD, of the World Bank; Dr. Kate O’Brien, Director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals; Anshu Banerjee, the WHO’s Director of the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child & Adolescent Health; Violaine Mitchell of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Dr. Naveen Thacker, President of the International Pediatric Association; Dr. Flavia Bustreo, of the Botnar Foundation; Helga Fogstad, Executive Director of PMNCH; Dr. Priya Agrawal and Dr. Joan Benson of MSD; and Jesal Doshi, Deputy CEO of B Medical Systems. Country delegations chimed in spontaneously with heartfelt on-the-ground experiences. The discussion was rich with frank and insightful assessments of challenges and missed opportunities in HPV.
An Agent of Change
Leaving that meeting, I was energized and even more convinced that Sabin is uniquely positioned to be a change agent for HPV. The consortium will leverage diverse entities that can play a role but have not been engaged so far. It would harness the energy of adolescents and young people. It would benefit from the robust 3,500-strong community of immunization professionals built and nurtured by Sabin’s Boost platform. Looking at HPV through the lens of adolescent health and wellbeing and women’s empowerment offers exciting opportunities for synergistic action, which requires new generation coalitions such as our Consortium and its resolve to break through traditional approaches.
Addressing Health Inequities
Look at any HPV graph and you will see the deep fissure of inequity: More than 90 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur among poor women and there are legitimate concerns that the lopsided impact of this disease could get worse. Disinformation and rumors about the HPV vaccine are on the rise, even in many high-income countries.
Global uptake dived during the pandemic from an anemic 15 to 12 percent. HPV and HPV-induced diseases such as cervical cancer are truly our best bet to demonstrate both the power of life course immunization and that of locally led solutions to promote integration of vaccination, screening, and treatment. I believe real upward momentum is possible if we become active listeners, co-creating customized solutions with communities and people whose health and lives are really at the center of it all.
Our Global HPV Consortium is committed to moving from localized evidence to tangible action targeting our most vulnerable first. Excited about a series of HPV-focused discussions with community champions and country change makers at our VARN2023 conference.
Change happens through movements, not mandates. Join the movement we are creating and read more on our new Consortium webpage.