Girls aged 10 in Vientiane and Vientiane province are being encouraged to have free vaccinations against cervical cancer as part of a campaign running from October 2 to 14. According to National Assembly President Pany Yathorou, Immunisation will help to lower the death rate of Lao women from this form of cancer. She said, it is estimated that 20 out of 100,000 women in Laos die of cervical cancer each year.

Speaking at the official launching vaccination programme for HPV/PCV, which begins on Wednesday morning at the ASEM conference centre in Vientiane capital. National Assembly President Madam Pany Yathorou stated that, the vaccination drive is targeting girls in the fifth year of primary school and also girls aged 10 in rural communities who may not attend school. She said, this is a great opportunity and is the first time girls in Laos will be immunised against cervical cancer. She said adding that, the vaccinations will support the government’s policy on reducing the death rate of mothers and children towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

WHO Representative, Dr Liui Yunguo said at the gathering where also attended by Minister of Health Dr Eksavanh Vongvichit, representative from the Gavi Alliance, UNICEF and Lux Dev of Luxembourg that, Cervical (womb) cancer is one of many forms of cancer in women. The disease affects women aged mostly between 18 and 55 and is a leading cause of death among Lao women today. She said, Girls at both government and private schools and any others aged 10 years of age are encouraged to have the vaccine. Three doses are required within a six month period. The first was given from October 2 to 14, the second from December 20 to 30, and the third round of injections will be administered from April 20 to 30 next year.

Minister of Health Dr Eksavanh Vongvichit, urges government administration offices at all levels and parents to encourage children to have the vaccination when medical staff visit schools. He also urged the education and sports sector in Vientiane province and the capital to inform the department of the exact number of target students, so they can be sure they all receive the vaccine. Meanwhile teachers have been requested to help medical staff prepare suitable venues to ensure 95 percent of the target group is vaccinated.

It is disclosed that, the girls being vaccinated will need three doses of the vaccine within a six month period to ensure full immunity. The government considers improving the health status of mothers and children a top priority and health officials are working to reduce death rates in this group.

Over 85 percent of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur in developing countries where effective screening, diagnosis and treatment is limited or absent.

According to doctors at Vientiane’s Setthathirath Hospital, there are basically four stages of development in cancer. Usually, people are unaware they have the first or second stages. Many women die every year worldwide and many more are suffering from cancer, especially cervical and breast cancers. Women with cervical or breast cancer are not usually aware they have a problem until the disease has reached the third or fourth stage of development. By this time only a small percentage will make a recovery. The incidence of cancer tends to increase after the age of 40. Most people with the disease show few signs or symptoms and those in the advanced stages have a poor prognosis. They often suffer intolerable pain and severe mental distress. Cancer is closely related to lifestyle habits. This means cancer is often avoidable. For example, the incidence of lung cancer is very high in populations with a continuous smoking history.

WHO statistics indicate that every year cervical cancer affects half a million women and kills 250,000 worldwide.

Source: LNTV Lao News in English