JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 28, 2016/ — MSD (www.MSD.com), known as Merck & Co., Inc. in the United States and Canada, has added its voice to the World Health Organization (WHO) campaign to promote the use of vaccines against some of the world’s deadliest diseases, and for countries to strengthen immunization services and systems.
World Immunization Week, a global awareness campaign launched by WHO in 2012 and commemorated in the last week of April, aims to promote the use of vaccines to help protect people of all ages against disease. For the second year running, the Close the Immunization Gap campaign will be celebrating the achievements to date with an emphasis on the unmet need amongst adolescents and adult vaccine uptake(1).
The theme for African Vaccination Week 2016 is “Close the immunization gap. Stay polio free!” (#AVW16) focusing attention on the need to attain universal immunization coverage in the African region. The theme also marks the celebration of the important polio eradication milestone that has been reached in the African region, and calls on African countries to stay vigilant in the fight against polio, and stay polio free.
“Vaccines are one of the greatest public health success stories in history. For more than 100 years, our scientists have been discovering vaccines that have been impacting lives. By helping healthy people stay healthy, vaccines remove a major barrier to human an economic development,” said Farouk Shamas Jiwa, sub-Saharan Africa director for Policy and Corporate Responsibility at MSD.
Africa has made several gains beyond increasing reach of immunisation; some diseases have been eliminated through wide-scale immunisation programmes. Vaccines are available in public vaccination programmes in the vast majority of African countries, thanks to sustained political will, international support and innovative public/private partnerships(2). Despite recent progress within African countries, there are still significant opportunities provided by immunization, particularly to help protect against human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer.
Africa and Human Papillomavirus
- An estimated 266,000 women die every year from cervical cancer. Over 85% of those deaths occur among women in developing countries. Without changes in prevention and control, cervical cancer deaths are forecast to rise to 416,000 by 2035; and virtually all of those deaths will be in developing countries(3).
- Cervical cancer is the most common of all cancers in Africa and thus continues to be a significant threat that demands urgent attention in the African Region. In 2012, over half a million new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide with 1 in 5 being in sub-Saharan Africa(4).
- The primary cause of cervical pre-cancerous lesions and cancer is persistent or chronic infection with one or more types of the high risk HPV. HPV is the most common sexually acquired infection and is most often acquired in adolescence and young adults upon sexual debut(4).
- Cervical cancer is a preventable disease. Immunisation, together with screening and treatment, is the best strategy to rapidly reduce the burden of cervical cancer(5).
In 2016, MSD is celebrating its 125th year and the 10th anniversary of its vaccines for rotavirus, human papilloma virus, and shingles.
“We must continue to build on the wonderful momentum we have. It will take a collective, collaborative effort involving governments, donors, patient organizations, healthcare professionals, NGOs, multilateral organizations and others in the private sector – to increase access to life-saving vaccines and to strengthen immunization programmes. Preventing disease though vaccination is about securing the future – in particular for African women and girls. Our goal is to sustain and improve the quality of life and health of communities and countries across Africa. Our commitment is steadfast as we work to increase access to vaccines now and in the future,” Mr. Jiwa said.
Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of MSD.
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Farouk Shamas Jiwa
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For 125 years, MSD (www.MSD.com) has been a global health care leader working to help the world be well. MSD is a tradename of Merck & Co., Inc., with headquarters in Kenilworth, N.J., USA. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.MSD.com or www.MSD.co. za.