Vietnam is set to roll out an extensive vaccine drive against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in an effort to reduce cervical cancer deaths in the country, local media reported.
The nation’s Ministry of Health will run the campaign with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD). The program will run for three years throughout the capital city of Hanoi, the provinces of Quang Ninh, Khanh Hoa, and Dong Thap as well as the southern city of Can Tho.
Alongside ramping up HPV vaccine distribution, the $400,000 drive will conduct “evidence-based advocacy” to encourage stakeholders and politicians to develop policies to prevent cervical cancer, like free nationwide screenings and comprehensive education campaigns.
The drive will also promote the establishment of a “national road map on HPV vaccination” across the country.
"Developing vaccines that help protect public health is more than a business decision; it is a shared mission,” Koen Kruijtbosch, chief representative at MSD in Vietnam, stated during the program launch in Hanoi. “This partnership between the UNFPA and MSD hopes to address this disease burden.”
According to the UNFPA in Vietnam, a strategic combination of sufficient coverage of HPV vaccination for adolescent girls and sufficient coverage of cervical screening and appropriate treatment for all women can eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem.#MayorHealth— Mayor's Pharmacy (@MayorPharmacy) July 28, 2019
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection.
Some strains of the virus are linked to cervical cancer, which claims the lives of over 300,000 women each year. According to the World Health Organization, 90% of those deaths belong to women who live in low- and middle-income countries.
In Vietnam, 12 women are diagnosed and seven women die from cervical cancer every day.
The nation first distributed the HPV vaccine in schools and clinics between 2007 and 2008. The initial project proved successful, with vaccine coverage reaching 96% and 98% in schools and clinics, respectively. Due to a lack of funding and resources, the program was not continued, local news site Nhan Dan reports.
In 2015, a national action plan against cervical cancer was established by the nation’s health ministry, which vowed to work toward improving access to HPV vaccines. Despite the action plan running for four years, national vaccination rates are low.
Various international reports have confirmed that widespread HPV vaccination in adolescent girls, as well as extensive cervical cancer screenings, can abolish the cancer as a public health problem.
In June, a study in the Lancet Public Health journal analyzed the health results from 60 million people within 14 high-income countries, including the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Overall, the study revealed nations that had widely distributed HPV vaccines for over five years saw infections in girls aged 15 to 19 decrease by 83%. Screened teenage girls also saw rates of precancerous cervical lesions reduce by 51%.
"Our results provide strong evidence that HPV vaccination works to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings as both HPV infections that cause most cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions are decreasing,” researcher Melanie Drolet said of the study in a media release.