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Unicef, ministry launch advocacy event in bid to prevent cervical cancer

The Ministry of Health and UNICEF Laos have embarked on a campaign to vaccinate girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can be the forerunner of cervical cancer.
A ceremony to launch the national advocacy event took place in Vientiane on Wednesday.
Speaking at the event, Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion at the Ministry of Health, Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, said the vaccination programme aims to immunise and protect all girls under the age of 15 against cervical cancer.
All girls in Laos will have access to the vaccine to boost their immunity to this potentially precancerous virus under the government’s policy to provide effective health care.
The launch was also attended by the Director of the Mother and Child Health Centre, Dr Panome Sayamoungkhoun, WHO Representative Dr Mark Jacobs, senior officials from the Ministry of Health and invited guests.
A representative of UNICEF, Dr Hendrikus Raaijmakers, said widespread administration of the HPV vaccine was an important milestone towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3.
HPV is a common infection among young women and if it persists can result in precancerous lesions.
Every year, about 320 women in Laos develop cervical cancer and more than half die as a result.
The HPV vaccine helps to prevent many of those deaths by building up immunity to the human papillomavirus, which causes over 70 percent of cervical cancers.
While this type of cancer mostly affects women of childbearing age, the vaccination against it is most effective when given at an earlier age. For this reason, UNICEF and partners support the availability of the vaccine for all eligible girls in Laos.
Dr Jacobs said more than half a million cervical cancer cases and over 300,000 cervical cancer deaths are caused by HPV worldwide each year.
Of these, more than 85 percent occur in low- and middle- income countries, and women in the most economically productive age groups are disproportionately affected.
HPV vaccine implementation is, therefore, not simply an urgently-needed public health intervention - it is an investment in Laos’ development and in advancing gender equity.
The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. More than 350 million doses have been safely used globally since its first marketing authorisation in 2006.
The vaccination has led to about an 80 percent reduction in the types of HPV most responsible for cervical cancer in the countries with high HPV vaccination coverage.

By Phetphoxay Sengpaseuth
(Latest Update March 5, 2020)

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