VIENTIANE – An Australian made vaccine, funded largely by Australia, is set to save thousands of little girls’ lives in Laos.
For the first time in South-East Asia, they’re taking part in an immunization program that has had remarkable results here at home.
For the young girls there is some pain, but the long term gain is life changing. The injections could save their lives.
“This is really exciting and you can really feel the buzz here,” GAVI Immunization Program spokeswoman Helen Evans said.
It’s because girls in Laos are the first in South East Asia to be vaccinated against the human papilloma virus which causes herpes, cold sores, and worst of all cervical cancer.
Thirteen thousand 10-year-old local girls will be immunized over the next year. Many have lost family members to the cancer.
“This vaccine program will save the lives of many young girls,” principal Aly Pholsen said.
In developing countries like Laos, cervical cancer is usually a death sentence with treatments simply unaffordable – but by immunizing against the virus hundreds of lives will be saved every year.
“At the moment they diagnose about 500 cases of cervical cancer every year and with this vaccine that should drop dramatically,” Helen Evans said.
It’s a great day for Australia too. The vaccine was invented by Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer. It has been used to protect Aussie kids for six years.
“This is the beginning of what the vaccine was created to do, to get rid of cervical cancer in the developing world,” Professor Frazer said.
Australia is also one of the biggest donors to GAVI, the program overseeing vaccinations, pouring in $66 million.
“A quarter of a million women die of cervical cancer every year and almost all of those deaths are in the developing world,” Professor Frazer said.