Life-saving HPV vaccine introduced nationwide into routine immunization schedule to prevent cervical cancer in Cambodia

05 October 2023
Launching ceremony for the introduction of HPV Vaccine to 9-year-old girls in Cambodia.
UNICEF Cambodia/2023/Bunsak But

PHNOM PENH, October 5, 2023 – The Ministry of Health (MoH) announced today the introduction of the one-dose human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for nine-year-old girls into the national immunization schedule to support the prevention of cervical cancer in Cambodia.

From 5 October 2023, the MoH, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) and local administrations, together with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), will offer HPV vaccines free of charge to all nine-year-old girls nationwide through regular school and community vaccination outreach sessions and year-round services at health centres.

Often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ and almost entirely preventable, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer and cause of cancer-related deaths among women globally, with the majority of cases occurring in lower- and middle-income countries. In Cambodia, it is the second most common cancer and is the third deadliest cancer among women of all ages, with an estimated 1,135 new cases and 643 deaths every year.[1] The HPV vaccine protects women from cervical cancer by preventing infection with the human papillomavirus. Recent evidence from WHO shows that one-dose HPV vaccines are 80-90 per cent effective in decreasing HPV infection and preventing cervical cancer.  

From 2017 to 2018 the MoH conducted a successful HPV vaccine demonstration project for nine-year-old girls across 10 districts in two provinces, Siem Reap and Svay Rieng. The project achieved 96 per cent coverage, demonstrating high acceptance in the communities and the country’s ability and readiness to implement the vaccine nationwide. Now, Cambodia joins 136 countries around the world in introducing the HPV vaccine into the national immunization programme.

During the national launch event for the introduction of the HPV vaccine, H.E. Professor Chheang Ra, Minister of Health, encouraged all health staff and partners to work together for the protection of all girls in the country. “Cervical cancer is a public health priority in Cambodia,” he said. “We are accelerating our joint efforts to eliminate this deadly disease by introducing the HPV vaccine into the Cambodian National Immunization Programme. We will ensure all nine-year-old girls can receive one dose of the HPV vaccine free of charge starting from today and plan to provide HPV vaccines to girls above nine years old through a campaign in 2025.”

Dr. Will Parks, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia, emphasized the importance of equity in the introduction of the HPV vaccine in Cambodia and the importance of quality sexual and reproductive health services for girls as part of primary health care. “Ensuring all eligible girls, especially those living in high risk, urban poor, remote and rural communities, and ethnic and migrant populations, have access to the HPV vaccine and other essential services for their sexual and reproductive health is critical for safeguarding the well-being of every girl in Cambodia,” he said. “UNICEF is committed to supporting the Government's efforts to eliminate cervical cancer and improve health for all.”

Dr. Pascal Ringwald, WHO Acting Representative in Cambodia, said, “We congratulate MoH for this historic decision. The HPV vaccine is one of the Royal Government of Cambodia’s primary prevention strategies towards cervical cancer elimination. The vaccine is safe and the most effective preventive measure available against cervical cancer. Achieving more than 80 per cent coverage of one-dose HPV vaccines will benefit more people, families, and communities in decades to come.”

Soleine Scotney, Country Director of CHAI Cambodia, commends the MoH’s commitment to improving the futures of Cambodian girls. “The continued prioritization of new and effective vaccines like the HPV vaccine is a testament to the commitment of the MoH to the health of Cambodians,” she said. “Learning from the experiences of the COVID-19 vaccination efforts, support from communities and local authorities is critical for ensuring all girls are reached and benefit from this important cervical cancer prevention measure.”

Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, said, “Today marks an important step in the battle against cervical cancer and its devastating impacts in Cambodia. The wait for the HPV vaccine is over, affording generations of adolescent girls across the country the opportunity to be protected against a deadly yet preventable disease. Collective and urgent action towards expanding access to all communities will be essential to make sure no girl is left behind.”

Driven by a model of building sustainable immunization programmes, Gavi is supporting the HPV vaccination by co-financing the cost of the vaccines, injection supplies, and operational logistics alongside the Government. The vaccine and injection supplies are WHO-prequalified and procured through UNICEF. WHO, UNICEF, CHAI, and Gavi commit to continue supporting the implementation of HPV vaccination as part of the National Immunization Programme and Government strategy towards eliminating cervical cancer in Cambodia.

Launching ceremony for the introduction of HPV Vaccine to 9-year-old girls in Cambodia.
UNICEF Cambodia/2023/Bunsak But

###

For further information, please contact:

Ork Vichit
National Immunization Programme, Ministry of Health
Tel:+ 855 12 830 548
Email: orkvichit@yahoo.com

 

Hadrien Bonnaud 
Chief of Communication, UNICEF Cambodia 
Tel: +85523260204
Email: hbonnaud@unicef.org   

Media contacts

Hadrien Bonnaud
Chief of Communication
UNICEF Cambodia
Tel: +85592555294
Ty Chan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Cambodia
Tel: +855 92 284 262

Additional resources

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook