HPV Vaccinations Celebrated on World Cancer Day 2019

Merck Foundation provides clinical oncology training to 57 candidates from 21 African countries

young african girl with pink coat and hat

World Cancer Day 2019 is the singular initiative under which the entire world can unite together in the fight against the global cancer epidemic, says the Union of International Cancer Control.   

World Cancer Day 2019 aims to save millions of preventable deaths by raising awareness and education about cancer and empowering individuals across the world to take action against the disease. 

And, one of the most preventable cancers is cervical cancer, says the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). 

The IARC estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide in 2018.   

This means cervical cancer is the 4th most common cancer in women globally.   

In a statement issued on February 4, 2019, the IARC fully endorsed the position of the World Health Organization (WHO) on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. 

The WHO has confirmed that HPV vaccination is safe, efficacious, and critical in the fight against cervical cancer. 

The IARC’s projections show that unless preventive measures are implemented promptly, the burden of cervical cancer is expected to increase to almost 460,000 deaths per year by 2040, an increase of nearly 50 percent from 2018. 

IARC Director Dr. Elisabete Weiderpass said in a press release,  “The IARC reiterates its commitment to fight this disease and unequivocally confirms the efficacy and safety of HPV vaccination.” 

Moreover, about 90 percent of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). 

The IARC has been at the forefront of research to identify simplified alternatives for cervical cancer screening in LMICs. 

One pharmaceutical company is enabling better cancer care in Africa. 

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The Merck Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Merck KGaA Germany marks ‘World Cancer Day 2019 ’themed ‘I am and I will’, through their Cancer Access Program with the aim to improve patient’s access to quality and equitable cancer care in Africa. 

Over 20 percent of African countries have no access to cancer treatments at all, while access is limited and sporadic in other countries. 

Later-stage diagnosis in African patients contributes to poorer outcomes. For example, 5-year female breast cancer relative survival rates are 46 percent in Uganda, compared with around 90 percent in developed countries. 

“We have been actively working to achieve objectives of building professional capacity with the aim to increase the limited number of oncologists” emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej, CEO of Merck Foundation, in a press release.

Through this program, Merck Foundation has enrolled and provided clinical training in Oncology to 57 candidates from more than 21 African countries. 

“We will soon scale up and strengthen our efforts and activities in more countries”, emphasized Dr. Rasha Kelej. 

Merck Foundation through its Merck Cancer Access Program has provided training to over 57 candidates from Botswana, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.   

In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration approved the application of the Gardasil 9 vaccine during October 2018 to include both women and men younger than 45 years old, and older than 8 years of age.   

"Preventing cancer with a vaccine is a dream come true as a healthcare provider. And now even more people can benefit from this life-saving therapy,” said Michelle Beall, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist, Brookshire Grocery Company.

“Since there is no cure for HPV, this HPV vaccine saves lives.”

“I highly encourage anyone from 9 to 45 years of age to ask their doctor, nurse or pharmacist about receiving this vaccine."