Global healthcare leader, Merck, has recently partnered with the Republic of Uganda to distribute free vaccines for cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting up to 3,500 women in Uganda and is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) which is transmitted through sexual contact.
For most people the virus clears up on its own, but for some it can cause vaginal and vulvar cancers in women and anal cancer and genital warts in men and women. Since there is no way to predict who will clear or not clear the virus, the vaccine is a very efficient way to cut down incidences of cervical cancer.
It is estimated that approximately 500,000 women develop cervical cancer annually around the world, with about 85 percent of cases occurring in developing countries. Cervical cancer is considered the third most common cancer found in women. The World Health Organization estimates that only about five percent of women in the developing world have been screened for cervical disease in the last five years compared to 75 percent in the developed world.
The Republic of Uganda, through the Ministry of Health (MoH), supported by Merck (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada), announced the launch of a national vaccination program with GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16 and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant] for appropriate girls 9 to 13 years of age in 12 districts throughout the country.
“Cervical cancer is a serious health concern in Uganda as it represents the most common cancer diagnosed in women of all ages,” said Dr. Gerald Mutungi, Program Manager for Non-Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Program-Ministry of Health. “It is our hope that this important collaboration with Merck, GAVI, PATH, and other partners will help to reduce the burden of cervical cancer in Uganda.”
According to CSR Wire, “the vaccination program will be implemented with 460,000 doses of GARDASIL donated to 12 districts in Uganda over a two-year period, enough to vaccinate approximately 140,000 eligible girls in 12 districts. The program represents the first phase of Uganda’s national roll out plan for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination.”
Merck, for its part, is very invested in being able to provide the vaccines to Uganda in order to prevent the incidences of cervical cancer. The burden of this disease is significant in sub-Saharan Africa and GARDASIL will alleviate the problem to a large degree.
Public health is a large area of CSR opportunity, especially for pharmaceutical companies, and it is heartening to note that Merck is leading the way on this front in Uganda.