Professor Ian Frazer is the creator of HPV vaccine, the second cancer preventing vaccine. He was made 2006 Australian of the Year.
Over 85% of the 275,000 cervical cancer deaths every year are among women in poor countries, where women often lack access to cancer screening and treatment services. There, vaccines have a very important role in reducing the risk of this disease.
I worked on the development of the vaccine with the late Dr. Jian Zhou, a Chinese virologist. I have seen first hand the devastating impact of cervical cancer on families and communities in countries where screening and treatment can't be provided--the personal tragedy of losing a mother and a wife, and the toll that this loss has on children and families left behind.
It was a 'eureka moment' when Dr. Zhou and I realised we had found the basis of the vaccine. That was back in 1991. After the long road of research and development, in 2006 I administered the first official HPV vaccination in Australia.
Since then, HPV vaccines have become part of routine immunisation in many industrialised countries. But they are still largely unavailable in the developing world despite the high burden of cervical cancer deaths.
GAVI's task is to overcome the time lag that has historically been observed between the time when vaccines are made available in the developed world and the time that they are introduced into the routine immunisation programs of less wealthy countries.
The decision by the GAVI Board is a giant leap forward for womankind and families. It will help girls and women in poorer countries to enjoy the benefit of access to a vaccine that could save their lives.