Following the introduction of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, girls across Lao PDR will be protected against one of the country’s most deadly diseases -- cervical cancer. The cervical cancer vaccine was introduced into the country’s national immunisation schedule today by Mr Bounvanh Chasuakao, Vice-governor of Saythani district, Vientiane capital. The first vaccine was delivered today at Sompanya School, Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital.
The HPV vaccination will be delivered in schools across the country and will be offered to over 360,000 girls aged 10-14 years old, regardless of whether they are enrolled in school or have dropped out. The vaccines are funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Government of Lao PDR. WHO, UNICEF and partners are supporting the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and Sports in the implementation.
“This is a historic event for Lao PDR in improving women’s health,” said Dr Phonepaseuth OUNAPHOME General Director of Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion at the launch event. “We are dealing a blow to cervical cancer. I request all community members and leaders to make sure that all eligible girls are reached with this life-saving vaccine.” Many countries worldwide have included the HPV vaccine in their immunization schedules so far, with Lao PDR being the latest to join.
“This is a momentous day for girls across Lao PDR,” said Anuradha Gupta, Deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “The introduction of HPV vaccine will give hundreds of thousands of girls a platform for a healthy, successful future. I’d like to commend the government and Gavi Alliance partners for the work they’ve done to make the introduction of this lifesaving vaccine possible and urge parents across the country to ensure their daughters are protected from the tragedy of cervical cancer.”
Cervical cancer ranks as a leading cause of cancer among women in Lao PDR. About 320 Lao women get cervical cancer each year and more than half die as a result. The HPV vaccine is given to young girls to build immunity against the types of HPV that cause over 70% of cervical cancer. Many studies conducted in developing and developed countries have found that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective. Over 350 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been used in the world and they have been administered safely.
Lao PDR conducted a successful HPV vaccination demonstration project from 2013 to 2015, reaching almost 15,000 girls with the HPV vaccine in Vientiane Capital and Vientiane Province, achieving 94% and 97% coverage, respectively. The HPV vaccine is now going to be introduced throughout Lao PDR in 2020. To be fully protected, eligible girls require 2 doses of HPV vaccine, with an interval of 12 months. All schools across the country will participate in the vaccination in March 2020. “Through HPV vaccination, the Government of Lao PDR is helping protect the next generation of adolescents and girls against cervical cancer”, said Dr Octavian Bivol, UNICEF Representative in Lao PDR. ‘’Since the vaccination is to be offered in schools, the initiative has witnessed close collaboration between the Health and Education to promote the wellbeing of girls,’’ he said.
“This vaccine is both very safe and very effective, and will change the lives of many Lao girls for the better, saving them from developing deadly cervical cancer”, said Dr Mark Jacobs, WHO Representative in Lao PDR.
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