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Cervical cancer vaccines for Laos schoolgirls

Some 11,700 girls in the fifth year of primary school in Vientiane province and the capital will get free vaccinations against cervical cancer from October 2 to 14.

Speaking at a workshop about the vaccinations on Tuesday, manager of the National Expanded Programme of Immunisation, Dr Anonh Xeuatvongsa, said they were preparing staff to carry out the vaccinations and making sure they were properly equipped.

"This is a great opportunity and is the first time that girls in Laos will be immunised against cervical cancer," he said.

The vaccination programme was revealed yesterday at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, in the presence of the deputy director general of the ministry's Mass Media Department Inponh Nakhonsy, director of the Centre for Mother and Child Health Dr Khampiew Sihakhang, along with media representatives.

Cervical cancer mostly affects women aged between 18 and 55 and is a leading cause of death among Lao women today.

Touk, 33, of Vientiane's Sisattanak district, said the vaccination programme was good news for women, adding that she may not get the vaccine because it was only being given to schoolgirls.

"I would like the programme to provide the vaccine for all women," she said.

Anonh, who is also deputy director of the Centre for Mother and Child Health, said they wanted to vaccinate the entire women population in Laos, but it was beyond their financial means.

Gavi Alliance, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Unicef and Lux Dev of Luxembourg have provided 48,000 doses of the vaccine, worth about US$432,000 (Bt13.4 million) for this campaign. The vaccine costs about $9 per dose.

The vaccinations will support the government's policy to reduce the number of deaths among mothers and children and move closer to achieving its Millennium Development

Goals.

The donors want to see whether this series of vaccinations reaches 95 per cent of the target group.

"If this is the case, all Lao women will have the opportunity for cervical cancer protection," Anonh said.

The girls being vaccinated will need three doses of the vaccine within a six-month period to ensure full immunity.

The government has prioritised improving the health of mothers and children and health officials are working to reduce death rates in this group.


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