Lusaka — Mozambique is planning to introduce the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, an entirely preventable and curable disease that still affects many Mozambican women.
Speaking to AIM in Lusaka on Tuesday, shortly after the close of the sixth "Stop Cervical Cancer in Africa" (SCCA) Conference, Deputy Health Minister Nazira Abdula said the HPC virus could be introduced in 2014 or 2015, financed by GAVI (Global Allance for Vaccines and Immunisation), a public-private international health partnership, dedicated to saving the lives of children and protecting people's health in general through funding vaccination programmes.
"We have submitted our candidature for the HPV vaccine, so that we can be eligible for funding", said Abdula. "Later we shall carry out a demonstration study, and then they may approve the funding".
The HPV virus is responsible for about 75 per cent of all cervical cancer cases. This is the second most common cancer among women across the globe. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are about 500,000 new cases and 250,000 deaths a year.
About 80 per cent of cervical cancer cases occur in poor countries, and most go undiagnosed until it is too late. According to Abdula, in 80 per cent of the diagnosed cases in Mozambique, the disease is already at its terminal stage, and it is almost impossible to avoid the death of the patient.
Abdula said the introduction of the HPV vaccine would be very important for saving the lives of Mozambican women. Since 2008, screening for cervical cancer and breast cancer has been included in family planning consultations, allowing for early detection and an immediate start to treatment.
But these services are mostly restricted to the provincial capitals. "The challenge now is to expand the services to all the districts", said Abdula. "So we are also seeking funding because we want to implement screening in all the country's health units".
During the Lusaka conference, the GAVI Alliance announced its intention of subsidising the HPV vaccine in low and middle income countries (the Mozambican request, however, had been submitted before this announcement).
GAVI agrees to fund vaccines as long as the recipient governments promise to pay 20 US cents per dose. In the case of the HPV vaccine, each woman takes three doses.
Abdula said that Mozambique is already benefitting from GAVI funding for the vaccines against hepatitis and meningitis, and next year the vaccine against pneumonia will be introduced.
"When these vaccines are expensive, they guarantee the funding as long as the government undertakes to pay 20 US cents a dose", she added.
The SCCA Conference is an event organised by the Forum of African First Ladies against Breast and Cervical Cancer. The Mozambican delegation was led by First Lady Maria da Luz Guebuza.