HPV vaccination to be piloted in all provinces from next weekOfficials say the vaccine doses will be administered in at least one hospital in each province and on a ‘first come first serve’ basis.
Around 10,000 girls aged 14 years will be administered the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) from next week, as the Ministry of Health and Population has completed all necessary preparations for the drive.
Officials say that the vaccine doses will be administered as a demonstration in at least one hospital in each province and on a ‘first come first serve’ basis.
The vaccine will be administered from next Wednesday, according to Dr Abhiyan Gautam, chief of the Immunisation Section at the Family Welfare Division under the Department of Health Services. “As we have limited doses of vaccine, we have confined the age group,” Gautam said.
Human papillomavirus is a viral infection that spreads through skin contact. The virus causes cervical cancer, which is the second-most common cancer in the developing world and a major cause of deaths of Nepali women. It is estimated that hundreds of women get diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in Nepal.
According to the BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital in Bharatpur, more than 700 women suffering from cervical cancer seek treatment at the hospital every year.
Experts say early treatment prevents up to 80 percent of cervical cancer.
The vaccine doses were purchased by the government itself. Each girl between 11 and 13 needs to be administered two doses of the vaccine over a period of six months.
According to Gautam, the vaccine doses will be administered at Koshi Hospital in Koshi Province, Narayani Hospital in Madhesh Province, Paropakar Maternity Hospital in Bagmati Province, Pokhara Hospital in Gandaki Province, Bheri Hospital in Lumbini Province, Surkhet Provincial Hospital in Karnali Province and Dadeldhura Hospital in Sudurpaschim Province.
The vaccine doses have been allocated proportionally according to the size of the population, officials say. Based on the population, Bagmati Province has got 6,000 doses of vaccine; 3,000 girls will be inoculated with two doses of the vaccine in the province over a period of six months. Dadeldhura Hospital has got around 800 doses of vaccine.
Nepal received 20,000 doses of the HPV vaccine in the first week of July that was supposed to be administered to 10,000 girls in the select districts.
The World Health Organisation says HPV vaccination is recommended as part of a coordinated and comprehensive strategy to prevent cervical cancer and other diseases caused by the virus.
In 2019, the Ministry of Health and Population had allocated Rs77.7 million to introduce the vaccine—Rs27.5 million to the Immunisation Section of the Family Welfare Division and Rs50 million to the BP Koirala Memorial Cancer Hospital in Bharatpur.
The hospital purchased 12,500 doses of the vaccine spending around Rs4,000 per dose while the government’s logistics management division failed to procure the doses on time, leading to a freeze in its budget.
More than 6,000 girls from Chitwan were inoculated with the vaccine at the time.
HPV vaccination also figured in the government’s policy and programme for the fiscal year 2021-2022 but the budget was not allocated accordingly.
Doctors say most cervical cancers are associated with HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. Widespread immunisation with the HPV vaccine could reduce the impact of cervical cancer and other cancers caused by HPV worldwide.
Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives have introduced HPV vaccines nationwide, while India and Indonesia have introduced them in some districts.
In 2016, Nepal piloted an HPV vaccination drive in Chitwan and Kaski districts. All girls aged between 11 and 13 years were inoculated with two doses of the vaccine at the time.
Nepal has also requested the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation to provide the HPV doses for free so that the vaccine could be included on the regular immunisation list. But the alliance hasn’t yet responded to the request, officials say.
“As of now, we need to administer the HPV vaccine to over 1.7 million girls and without help from the GAVI, we are not in a position to purchase and administer the vaccine in the said age group,” said Gautam.
The World Health Organisation says HPV is responsible for more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in women. Countries that have included the HPV vaccine in their regular immunisation list have successfully reduced cervical cancer cases in women, according to doctors.