Africa’s Rwanda Gets Merck Cervical Prevention Treatment

The land of Africa is the second largest continent in the world in both square mileage and population. Thus, it also has widespread disease and in turn, is a huge testing bed for new medications and procedures. This week Merck and Qiagen NV have announced collaboration in Rwanda to battle cervical cancer.

Rwanda will be the first country in the world to implement a cervical cancer prevention program in history.

Mark Feinberg, chief public health and science officer at Merck Vaccines stated:

“Over 85% percent of cervical cancer cases occur in the world’s poorest countries, having an impact on the women affected, their families and their communities.”

Merck will provide more than 2 million free doses of its Gardasil vaccine and Qiagen will provide 250,000 screening tests free of charge, as well as equipment and training.

According to the pharma giant’s website:

“When it comes to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, females are only half the equation. Males can get vaccinated, too. Like other vaccines, Gardasil works to help prevent illness. Gardasil works when given before there is any contact with the relevant HPV types. Girls and boys as young as 9 can get vaccinated.”

The program initially will target girls ages 12 to 15 for vaccinations and women ages 35 to 45 for screening tests.

In the United States, Gardasil is approved for girls and women ages 9 through 26 to prevent cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers, as well as genital warts and lesions, caused by HPV.

The Global Collation to Stop Cervical Cancer is another organization that is promoting awareness and recognition via strategic advocacy, political mobilization, coordination and resource mobilization. See the link below for more details.

The National Cancer Institute defines cervical cancer as cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix (the organ connecting the uterus and vagina). It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests, which is a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope. Cervical cancer is almost always caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

Gardasil is the only human papillomavirus vaccine that helps protect against 4 types of HPV. In girls and young women ages 9 to 26, Gardasil helps protect against 2 types of HPV that cause about 75% of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases. In boys and young men ages 9 to 26, Gardasil helps protect against 90% of genital warts cases.

Gardasil also helps protect girls and young women ages 9 to 26 against 70% of vaginal cancer cases and up to 50% of vulvar cancer cases.

Gardasil may not fully protect everyone, nor will it protect against diseases caused by other HPV types or against diseases not caused by HPV. Gardasil does not prevent all types of cervical cancer, so it’s important for women to continue routine cervical cancer screenings. Gardasil does not treat cancer or genital warts. Gardasil is intended to be given as three injections over a six month period.

Sources: The National Cancer Institute, Merck and Cervical Cancer Action

Written by Sy Kraft

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