Delivering on the promise for girls and women

For girls in developing countries, good health in childhood and adolescence is a key to a bright future. When girls grow into healthy women, nations and communities benefit.  Everybody benefits.

International Women’s Day on 8th March is an opportunity to remind the world how vaccines can help deliver for girls and women.

In GAVI we are committed to giving all children a good start in life by delivering life-saving vaccines including against two leading killers, pneumonia and diarrhoea, to the developing world.

While globally there is little difference in immunisation coverage rates between boys and girls, in countries where families prefer having sons over daughters, more boys than girls get immunised. Where women have low status, their children – both girls and boys – are less likely to be immunised. So we work with these countries to overcome gender-related barriers to immunisation. Countries identify the barriers to immunisation and GAVI provides health systems funding support to help reach those who are excluded.

Vaccines protect the health of women and mothers. With UNICEF we have reached more than 40 million women with maternal and neonatal tetanus vaccines, which protect against a lethal consequence of unclean deliveries.

Now, GAVI is supporting two more vaccines which can benefit the health of women and girls: human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines against cervical cancer and rubella vaccines against congenital rubella syndrome.

Worldwide, over one quarter of a million women die every year from cervical cancer.  The vast majority of those deaths occur in developing countries. In Asia and Latin America, deaths from cervical cancer even outnumber those from pregnancy-related causes.  So in the global fight to reduce mortality among women of reproductive age we have a new weapon: HPV vaccines that can prevent 70% of cervical cancer cases.

HPV vaccines are critically important to developing countries as cancer screening and treatment services are often unavailable. So in response to the enormous demand from countries, GAVI is working  to ensure that HPV and other vaccines are affordable to the countries that need them the most. Last year, a vaccine manufacturer offered an indicative price for HPV vaccines to GAVI countries at US$ 5 per dose, a two-thirds reduction on the lowest public price.  GAVI continues to work with vaccine manufacturers to achieve acceptable price commitments.

We are working with cancer, reproductive health and women’s organisations to help countries deliver HPV vaccines cost-effectively. We know how important it is to make sure that vaccination is delivered in an integrated way, with other important interventions for girls such as adolescent reproductive health, HIV prevention, nutrition, family planning and safe motherhood. Our goal is that by 2020, over 28 million girls will be immunised with HPV vaccines.

The other good news for women is GAVI’s support for rubella vaccination. Every year, 90,000 children are born in GAVI-eligible countries with severe birth defects just because their mothers were infected with rubella virus during pregnancy.  This is totally preventable through the power of vaccines. GAVI will now support combined measles-rubella (MR) catch-up campaigns in countries immediately introducing MR vaccine into their routine immunisation programmes. By building on the momentum of accelerated measles control activities we believe that one billion children can be immunised against measles-rubella by 2020.

New vaccines, new delivery systems and affordable prices for new vaccines. GAVI is committed to delivering on its promise for women and girls – their right to a healthy future, no matter who they are, no matter where they live.

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