Saving our women and girls
July-September 2017
By: Meg Taylor

In their consideration of this issue, Forum leaders recognized that cervical cancer can be prevented with vaccines and well-established pre-cancer screening, and that deaths could be averted with treatment methods that avoid progression to invasive cancer. But such measures are only effective if people are aware of them and, most importantly, have access to such services. Forum leaders are also aware of the barriers that each country faces in trying to procure HPV vaccines on their own, particularly due to the high vaccine costs. They noted that lobbying manufacturers as a group through a bulk procurement mechanism would likely ensure some cost reduction. The Vaccine Independence Initiative, a bulk procurement mechanism for vaccines that currently exists in the Pacific and is administered by Unicef, is the obvious extant mechanism through which bulk procurement of HPV vaccines should occur. 

Progress toward vaccination

While the introduction of new vaccines such as HPV has progressed in developed countries and some low-income countries thanks to support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, many middle-income countries (like almost all Pacific Island countries and territories) have not been able to introduce the new vaccines in routine vaccination programs due to their high cost. Successful introductions of some new vaccines in Fiji, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau have been achieved only because of significant donor support.

The next graphic shows five countries that have introduced HPV as a new vaccine into their immunization programs, and five countries that have at least a tangible plan for the introduction of new vaccines such as HPV. The remaining Pacific Island countries and territories have no identifiable plan or policy in place for new vaccine introduction. In addition, four countries (Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) are earmarked for funding support from the Asian Development Bank, and it is anticipated that they will prioritize the purchase of HPV vaccines with this funding. Unicef is negotiating for the inclusion of Kiribati in the ADB funding, as well as with other donors for support to other countries, including Nauru, Niue and Tokelau. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat supports these efforts by advocating for the prevention of cervical cancer and by lobbying development partners and donors to support the introduction of HPV into countries’ immunization programs.

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