Govt launches nationwide HPV vaccination campaign


The government, supported by UNICEF, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), and WHO, has launched a ground-breaking Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign, said a press release.

This initiative aims to protect the health and future of millions of girls across Bangladesh by safeguarding them against cervical cancer, a disease that claims the lives of thousands of women in the country annually.

The campaign will kick off in Dhaka and will be implemented in three phases, throughout the entire country. Targeting over 10 million girls studying in grades V to IX, including those who are out of educational institutions aged between 10 to 14 years, the safe and highly effective vaccine will be provided free of cost.

The first phase in Dhaka, spanning 18 days, will see eligible girls receiving the vaccine at their educational institutes or designated vaccination centers after registering on the “Vaxepi” app or website. Subsequently, other divisions will be covered in 2024.

“The Government of Bangladesh is committed to ensuring health services for all the people of the country. The government has already achieved remarkable success in preventing maternal and child death and disability by providing vaccinations against vaccine-preventable diseases. Bangladesh has established itself as a role model around the world in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. For the outstanding success of the immunization program in Bangladesh, the prime minister Sheikh Hasina has been awarded the Vaccine Hero Award by Gavi in 2019. Today we have reached a milestone in the history of EPI program, as we are going to start the great journey of making the country free of cervical cancer by providing one dose of HPV vaccine against a deadly disease like cervical cancer,” said health and family welfare minister Zahid Maleque.

With the support of Gavi, UNICEF has provided 2.3 million HPV vaccines for all girls in the Dhaka division. The government has expressed its commitment to reach vulnerable communities, engaging with the Ministry of Education, and implementing special programs to include out-of-school girls, including those living on the streets.

“Congratulations to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for their commitment towards safeguarding the future of adolescent girls in Bangladesh by enhancing access to the life-saving HPV vaccine,” said Thabani Maphosa, managing director of country programmes delivery at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Achieving widespread coverage will be integral to protect the health and potential of all girls, and to reduce the burden of cervical cancer in the country. Gavi is proud to collaborate on this critical vaccine introduction to help save lives.”

Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). However, a single dose of the HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent cervical cancer, making this campaign a crucial step toward eliminating this threat.

“It is a tragedy that millions of women die from cervical cancer in Bangladesh, a disease which can be prevented with a single dose of vaccine to girls at an early age. We are pleased to support the Government in introducing the HPV vaccine, a vaccine that will save millions of lives and will help protect the future of adolescent girls across the country,” said Mr Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Representative to Bangladesh.

UNICEF and WHO are collaborating closely with the government to ensure the successful execution of the vaccination campaign. Health workers have undergone extensive training, and orientation sessions have been convened to engage teachers, parents, and religious leaders, ensuring that no girl is left behind.

“Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Bangladesh and is responsible for the country’s highest number of cancer-related deaths. It is estimated that approximately 8,300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Bangladesh every year, resulting in 4,900 deaths. We can change these statistics if we act now and ensure that every girl, 10-14 years old, will get access to a single dose of the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is among the most effective vaccines for preventing cervical cancer.

WHO Bangladesh thanks the Government of Bangladesh for initiating this vaccination campaign in the Dhaka Division, targeting all eligible girls. This initiative will significantly contribute to the well-being of our female population, both in the present and future. WHO takes pride in collaborating on this crucial vaccine introduction and encourages everyone to support eligible adolescent girls in getting the HPV vaccine,” said Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative to Bangladesh.

Upon the completion of all three phases, the HPV vaccine will be integrated into the routine immunization program for girls in grade V and 10-year-old girls who are out of the education system. This approach underlines Bangladesh's commitment to the health and well-being of its young population, paving the way for a healthier and more prosperous future.