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IVAC Collaborates with Global Partners to Tackle Cervical Cancer


Worldwide, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women, with an estimated 604,000 new cases and 342,000 cervical cancer-related deaths reported in 2020. Two types of HPV contribute to nearly 50% of high-grade cervical cancers, underscoring the need for continued prevention, screening, and education. Vaccination against HPV remains the primary prevention method globally; this is followed by secondary and tertiary prevention, which respectively include the screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions and the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer.  

IVAC collaborates with several global partners across multiple projects to strengthen HPV vaccination efforts. It supports the Coalition to Strengthen the HPV Immunization Community, or CHIC, alongside Jhpiego, the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and the Centre for Evaluation of Vaccination at the University of Antwerp. CHIC aims to advance the dialogue on science, policy, and program implementation supporting cervical cancer elimination efforts. Recently, CHIC organized a South Asia-focused meeting in New Delhi, India, to support peer-to-peer exchange, learning, and engagement around the prevention and control of HPV infections. The meeting was co-organized with global non-profit INCLEN Trust International and other regional South Asian partners.  

The symposium was attended by nearly 300 representatives from 34 countries, ranging from India to Indonesia and reaching as far as Ireland. Several IVAC faculty and staff members attended the symposium in-person. “People were very engaged—there were lots of opinions, knowledge, and perspectives shared, and people were very interested in making changes and improvements to the current HPV and cervical cancer landscape in South Asia,” said IVAC Research Associate Marley Jurgensmeyer.  

The three-day symposium tackled topics including challenges within health care and information systems, country-specific roadblocks and best practices, and the global landscape of cervical cancer screening. Attendees touched on region-specific challenges related to vaccine hesitancy, like how social media can both help and hurt vaccine acceptance. IVAC faculty Rupali Limaye, PhD, led a breakout session focusing on communication strategies for vaccine hesitancy, while Mathuram Santosham, MD, chaired a panel focusing on Gavi’s support for vaccination programs in low- and middle-income countries. “There is a lot of work to be done around consent and vaccine hesitancy for HPV, and the perspectives from different countries were eye-opening,” Jurgensmeyer said. “There are so many ways to involve parents, educators, and others, and the communication piece is very important and must be culturally sensitive.”   

So, what’s next? CHIC has several exciting plans, including a symposium focusing on middle-income countries in Indonesia and a convening of partners in Baltimore. Case studies and lessons learned from the South Asia symposium and a previous symposium held in Africa will be compiled into a series of 11 articles that will be published in a Vaccine supplement, with each article authored by a CHIC partner organization. IVAC’s newly launched HPV Vaccine Acceleration Program Partners Initiative, or HAPPI, will use findings from the South Asia symposium to inform future work, including prioritizing needs, defining gaps, and literature mapping. In early February, Dr. Limaye and Greg Rosen, Deputy Director for Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning for HAPPI, will be in Geneva to represent IVAC within Gavi’s HPV sub-committee, which IVAC recently joined as an official member. Here, they will lead a 5-hour workshop that aims to reach consensus on priorities for global and country-specific HPV and cervical cancer-related markers.

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