Affordable vaccines "key" to preventing thousands of cervical cancer deaths

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In Sao Paulo, Brazil, a young girl receives the HVP cervical cancer vaccine, given at public and private schools throughout the county and in the 36,000 vaccination centers of the national health system (March 2014). Photo: PAHO/WHO

Making vaccines affordable could save the lives of thousands of women each year who die from cervical cancer.

That's according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Matthew Wells has the story.

Each year, cervical cancer kills more than 250,000 women around the world, and 85 per cent of those deaths occur in low and middle income countries, said IARC.

The agency's head of early detection and prevention, Roland Herrero, said on Thursday that vaccination had a "vital role to play in protecting women from cervical cancer".

Screening programmes to detect pre-cancerous lesions and vaccinating girls against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, were low-cost measures that can save thousands of lives, he said, adding that governments needed to show "strong political commitment to implement HPV vaccination".

In countries with limited resources, the challenges include poor health infrastructure and competing public health priorities, as well as cultural objections in some areas where it's believed that vaccination could promote sexual activity.

IARC said that there was a clear "gender bias" in many countries which meant that women's health was seen as less important to invest in.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 56″

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