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Am J Law Med. 2009;35(2-3):401-13.

Overcoming barriers and ensuring access to HPV vaccines in low-income countries.

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  • 1Reproductive Health, PATH, Seattle, WA, USA.


The inequitable burden of cervical cancer falls on women in poorer countries, due primarily to a disparity in access to screening services. To ensure that access to the new human papillomavirus ("HPV") vaccines is not similarly skewed toward higher-income populations, it is important to understand the appropriate priority group for receiving vaccines, the potential barriers to reaching that group, and the options for overcoming those barriers. Based on vaccine efficacy data, the likelihood of achieving high coverage with various groups, and the resultant cost-effectiveness ratios, it is widely agreed that young adolescent girls should be the primary recipients. Potential barriers include the fact that young adolescents are not currently reached by many health services; that there might be stigma attached to a vaccine for a sexually transmitted infection; that financing for the vaccine must be allocated; and that there is limited political commitment to women's health, to cancer prevention, or to this particular vaccine when so many other new vaccines are also becoming available. Despite these very real challenges, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that those most in need of an HPV vaccine can receive it in programs that are affordable, effective, and acceptable to girls, their families, and their societies.

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