Human papilloma virus (HPV), transmitted sexually, is the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Merck & Co. Inc.'s recent launch Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline Plc's latest introduction Cervarix, are both clinically proven vaccines, to prevent cervical cancer.
The new products are likely to be welcomed in rich countries but it is very doubtful how they would be received by the developing world; it is in the latter that 80 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur. More than 95% of women in the developing world never have a cervical smear test; as a result, affected women in these countries face a painful and protracted death.
These alarming statistics maybe attributed to the lack of awareness and dearth of screening and treatment programs.
At a conference in London, a gathering of 60 health experts from multilateral agencies, government, charities and the drug industry called for a global access of these vaccines.
The experts asserted that more than 250,000 lives could be saved each year, if girls around the world were given the vaccine before they reached puberty. In other words, the vaccine will be probably most effective when given to girls aged under-13, before the girl begins her sex life.
Nothemba Simelela, of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, said: 'There is usually a 15 to 20 year delay between the time that new vaccines are approved in the West and the time they reach developing countries.
The world cannot afford to wait 20 years to begin saving women from cervical cancer.'
However, the vaccines are not going to be cheap; immunization requires 3 doses, each costing US$120..
Drug companies have assured they would consider lower prices, but it is unlikely to reach a level that would be affordable for women in poor countries.
PATH, an American organization is examining the possibilities of using the vaccine in India, Peru, Uganda and Vietnam.
Dr Jacqueline Sherris, from PATH, said, 'There is an increasing commitment on the part of global community to supplement the cost of the vaccine in the initial years of its availability so companies can make the profit they need and at the same time it's affordable to poorer countries.'