Health experts call for cervical cancer vaccine action

In collaboration with the Press Association

International health experts have called for action to ensure that a vaccine protecting against cervical cancer reaches the women who need it in developing countries.

An estimated 80 per cent of cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries. If widely distributed the vaccine has the potential to save 250,000 lives a year, said experts.

The call was made at a conference on the vaccine organised by the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

"There is usually a 15 to 20 year delay between the time that new vaccines are approved in the west and the time they reach developing countries," said Dr Nothemba Simelela of the IPFF.

"The world cannot afford to wait 20 years to begin saving women from cervical cancer."

Mortality rates have fallen in developed countries in recent years due to improved screening, but less than five per cent of women in the developing world are screened.

The vaccine provides protection against the human papilloma virus, which causes around 70 per cent of all cervical cancers and is thought to be the fastest growing sexually transmitted infection globally.

The makers of the vaccine, pharmaceutical company Merck & Co, have said that they will consider reducing the cost of the course of immunisation in developing countries, but the discount alone is unlikely to make it affordable for most women.