The government will inoculate one crore young girls with vaccine against Human papillomavirus (HPV) free of cost in a bid to help prevent deaths from cervical cancer in the country.
“We will inoculate one crore people with the HPV vaccine in phases. The vaccination against the Human papillomavirus will start in September this year aiming to administer the jabs among 25 lakh people in Dhaka city,” Prof Dr Ahmedul Kabir, additional director general (planning and development) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.
According to the DGHS, girls aged between 10 and 14 will get the HPV vaccines initially in the country.
The Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) of the DGHS has sent letters to educational institutions across the country on July 4 to collect information about the girls from class five to class nine to inoculate them with one dose of the HPV vaccine.
However, the girls who are labourers, under privileged and remain outside the educational institutions but aged between 10 and 14 also will be listed to administer the vaccine among them.
“The specific date has not been fixed yet to start the vaccination with the SPV vaccines. But we are trying to administer the vaccine from next month. We will inoculate girls aged 10 to 14 in our drive,” Dr SM Abdullah-Al-Murad, Programme Manager (EPI) of the DGHS, told the Daily Sun.
Mentioning that the government will administer the vaccine free of cost, he said they will administer Cervarix vaccine against the HPV.
According to European Medicines Agency, Cervarix is a suspension for injection that contains purified proteins for two types of the human papillomavirus (types 16 and 18). It is available in vials or prefilled syringes.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque at a press conference at the ministry conference room in February this year disclosed the plan about administering the HPV vaccine in the country.
“We have cervical cancer screening programme across the country. We believe this programme will reduce cervical cancer by a huge margin,” the minister said.
The government conducted a pilot project of the HPV vaccines with the support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi) in 2016 for a two-year trial in Gazipur district.
In the pilot project, around 30,000 girls aged 10 years were inoculated with the HPV vaccine.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally as two human papillomavirus (HPV) types (16 and 18) are responsible for nearly 50 percent of high grade cervical pre-cancers.
It said HPV is mainly transmitted through sexual contact and most people are infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity as more than 90 percent of them clear the infection eventually.
Mentioning that the women living with HIV are 6 times more likely to develop cervical cancer compared to the women without HIV, the WHO said the cervical cancer can be cured if it is diagnosed at an early stage and treated promptly.
Comprehensive cervical cancer control includes primary prevention (vaccination against HPV), secondary prevention (screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions) and tertiary prevention (diagnosis and treatment of invasive cervical cancer) and palliative care, it added.
The WHO said Bangladesh has a high burden of cervical cancer due to the lack of screening, high prevalence of risk factors like early marriage, early initiation of sexual activity, multiparty, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and low socio-economic condition.
According to HPV information centre, current estimates indicate that every year 8,268 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,971 die from the disease in Bangladesh.
Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in Bangladesh and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.
However, data is not yet available on the HPV burden in the general population of Bangladesh, the HPV information centre added.
It said in Southern Asia, the region Bangladesh belongs to, about 4.4 percent of women in the general population are estimated to harbour cervical HPV-16/18 infection at a given time, and 80.3 percent of invasive cervical cancers are attributed to HPVs 16 or 18.
There are currently 4 vaccines that have been prequalified by WHO, all protecting against HPV types 16 and 18, which are known to cause at least 70 percent of cervical cancers.
HPV vaccines work best if administered prior to exposure to HPV. Therefore, to prevent cervical cancer WHO recommends vaccinating girls aged 9 to 14 years, when most have not started sexual activity.
Source: The Daily SUN.