Government launches nationwide human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign
Supported by UNICEF, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and WHO, the campaign will protect girls and women against cervical cancer
DHAKA, 2 October 2023 – The Government of Bangladesh, supported by UNICEF, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and WHO, has launched a ground-breaking Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign. This initiative aims to protect the health and future of millions of girls across Bangladesh by safeguarding them against cervical cancer, a disease that claims the lives of thousands of women in the country annually.
The campaign will kick off in Dhaka and will be implemented in three phases, throughout the entire country. Targeting over 10 million girls studying in grades V to IX, including those who are out of educational institutions aged between 10 to 14 years, the safe and highly effective vaccine will be provided free of cost.
The first phase in Dhaka, spanning 18 days, will see eligible girls receiving the vaccine at their educational institutes or designated vaccination centers after registering on the “Vaxepi” app or website. Subsequently, other divisions will be covered in 2024.
“The Government of Bangladesh is committed to ensuring health services for all the people of the country. The government has already achieved remarkable success in preventing maternal and child death and disability by providing vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases. Bangladesh has established itself as a role model around the world in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. For the outstanding success of the immunization program in Bangladesh, the Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been awarded the Vaccine Hero Award by Gavi in 2019. Today we have reached a milestone in the history of EPI program, as we are going to start the great journey of making the country free of cervical cancer by providing one dose of HPV vaccine against a deadly disease like cervical cancer,” said Mr. Zahid Maleque, MP, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
With the support of Gavi, UNICEF has provided 2.3 million HPV vaccines for all girls in the Dhaka division. The government has expressed its commitment to reach vulnerable communities, engaging with the Ministry of Education, and implementing special programs to include out-of-school girls, including those living on the streets.
“Congratulations to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for their commitment towards safeguarding the future of adolescent girls in Bangladesh by enhancing access to the life-saving HPV vaccine,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Achieving widespread coverage will be integral to protect the health and potential of all girls, and to reduce the burden of cervical cancer in the country. Gavi is proud to collaborate on this critical vaccine introduction to help save lives.”
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). However, a single dose of the HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent cervical cancer, making this campaign a crucial step toward eliminating this threat.
“It is a tragedy that millions of women die from cervical cancer in Bangladesh, a disease which can be prevented with a single dose of vaccine to girls at an early age. We are pleased to support the Government in introducing the HPV vaccine, a vaccine that will save millions of lives and will help protect the future of adolescent girls across the country,” said Mr Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.
UNICEF and WHO are collaborating closely with the government to ensure the successful execution of the vaccination campaign. Health workers have undergone extensive training, and orientation sessions have been convened to engage teachers, parents, and religious leaders, ensuring that no girl is left behind.
“Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Bangladesh and is responsible for the country’s highest number of cancer-related deaths. It is estimated that approximately 8,300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Bangladesh every year, resulting in 4,900 deaths. We can change these statistics if we act now and ensure that every girl, 10-14 years old, will get access to a single dose of the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is among the most effective vaccines for preventing cervical cancer.
WHO Bangladesh thanks the Government of Bangladesh for initiating this vaccination campaign in the Dhaka Division, targeting all eligible girls. This initiative will significantly contribute to the well-being of our female population, both in the present and future. WHO takes pride in collaborating on this crucial vaccine introduction and encourages everyone to support eligible adolescent girls in getting the HPV vaccine,” said Dr. Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative to Bangladesh.
Upon the completion of all three phases, the HPV vaccine will be integrated into the routine immunization program for girls in grade V and 10-year-old girls who are out of the education system. This approach underlines Bangladesh's commitment to the health and well-being of its young population, paving the way for a healthier and more prosperous future.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/bangladesh/
Dedicated to the well-being of all people and guided by science, the World Health Organization leads and champions global efforts to give everyone, everywhere an equal chance at a safe and healthy life. We are the UN agency for health that connects nations, partners and people on the front lines in 150+ locations – leading the world’s response to health emergencies, preventing disease, addressing the root causes of health issues and expanding access to medicines and health care. Our mission is to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.
For more information about WHO and its work, visit www.who.int
About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate more than half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organisations that fund Gavi’s work here.
Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 1 billion children – and prevented more than 17.3 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 78 lower-income countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningococcal and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation, above all the zero-dose children who have not received even a single vaccine shot. The Vaccine Alliance employs innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency.