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A new vaccine could prevent millions of cervical cancer deaths in the developing world — but only if the price is right, say Jan M. Agosti and Sue J. Goldie in this article in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers have developed a vaccine effective against the human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18, which cause almost three-quarters of all cervical cancers. 

More than 80 per cent of the 274,000 annual cervical cancer deaths occur in developing countries. The biggest barrier to introducing the HPV vaccine to these nations is its high price, say the authors.

But tiered pricing and subsidies, such as those offered by the GAVI Alliance, could allow the vaccine to reach poorer countries.

The authors argue that a committed global effort is needed to bring the life-saving HPV vaccine to the developing world, pointing out that every five-year delay in doing so leads to another 1.5 to 2 million deaths from cervical cancer.

The authors also recommend sustaining screening efforts in low-income settings to identify HPV 16 and 18 cancers in non-vaccinated women, as well as those caused by other HPV types.

Link to full article/paper in The New England Journal of Medicine