Dr. Merle Lewis, New Vaccine Research Advisor for PAHO's Immunization Unit, and Dr. Omar Shafey, ACS Director of International Programs and Research.
As part of the Society’s commitment to global implementation of the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer, Society staff participated in the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Technical Advisory Group meeting on Vaccine-Preventable Diseases held in Guatemala City July 24-27. Participants from nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere met to discuss strategies for achieving the high potential of this new vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, the developing world’s leading cause of cancer death among women. About 510,000 cases of cervical cancer are reported and more than 288,000 women every year are killed by the disease. The highest cervical cancer incidence rates are found in the least developed countries: Haiti, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Belize have the highest cervical cancer incidence rates in the Americas. Due to lack of available cervical cancer screening programs, women in Latin America and the Caribbean suffer from some of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates in the world. The HPV vaccine promises to reduce and eventually eradicate cervical cancer as a major health problem. Effective global implementation of HPV vaccination programs poses a major public health challenge that will require long-term collaboration and coordination between governments, non-governmental organizations, vaccine manufacturers, insurance companies, and religious and civic organizations.