SEOUL, South Korea, March 8, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The International Vaccine Institute (IVI), an international organization with a mission to discover, develop, and deliver safe, effective, and affordable vaccines for global health, announced the start of a multi-country study to better understand the burden of Human papillomavirus (HPV) among girls and women in low- and lower middle-income countries. This study received $14.99 million USD in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with $1 million USD co-funding from the Swedish government and will help inform intervention implementation and prioritization of research and development efforts that have the greatest potential public health impact.
The focus of this global HPV burden study will be on girls and women ages 9 to 50 in three South Asian countries and five sub-Saharan African countries that currently have no or limited data on HPV burden and have either not yet introduced HPV vaccines into national immunization programs or have had mixed success with uptake. The study also includes qualitative sub-studies to further understand how gender-related dynamics create barriers to HPV prevention, screening, and treatment services, further influencing HPV burden in girls and women.
Dr. Julia Lynch, IVI’s Cholera Program Director and HPV Study Team Lead, said: “Nearly all cases of cervical cancer are due to HPV infection. Less than 15% of girls and women worldwide are fully vaccinated and coverage is even lower in low- and middle-income countries. Through this global burden study, we hope to generate data that will inform effective strategies to prevent infection and ultimately introduce HPV vaccine into national programs, protecting the health of girls and women and reducing rates of cervical cancer.”
Prof. Deborah Watson-Jones, co-investigator and Professor of Clinical Epidemiology & International Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: “HPV epidemiology and prevention in sub-Saharan Africa has been a focus of research for LSHTM for more than 15 years. We are proud to be part of this consortium and to work with IVI and our partners in the region on a critically important project that will provide up-to-date data that can inform future targeted intervention strategies for cervical cancer prevention that will improve the health of women in the continent.”
Dr. Anna Kågesten, co-investigator and Assistant Professor at Karolinska Institutet, said: “Gender inequality remains a barrier for women and girls to realize their sexual and reproductive health and rights globally. This study will help us unpack gender-related drivers such as social norms and stigma around young women’s sexuality, that shape their access to and uptake of HPV prevention, screening, and treatment services in different contexts.”
Collaborators on this study include investigators from LSHTM, who are part of the Single-Dose HPV Vaccine Evaluation Consortium along with Dr. Lynch, and investigators from the Department of Global Public Health at Karolinska Institutet. The team has completed regional workshops to ensure a harmonized study protocol across all eight countries, hosted in Nepal for the South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan) and Tanzania for the African countries (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Zambia).
This is IVI’s second grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to understand and remove barriers to HPV prevention and vaccination. IVI is also leading a study in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand to demonstrate the effectiveness of a single dose of HPV, thereby making vaccination more accessible than the current two- or three-dose schedules.
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