Last updated on Jan 21st, 2021 at 02:28 pmThe launch of a new era and a vaccine
In February 2008 the Medicines Control Council [MCC] approved and registered a cervical cancer vaccine and pharmaceutical corporation, GlaxoSmithKline followed suit by launching Cevarix as a prescription medication available from general practitioners, gynaecologists and pharmacists.
The decision to make the vaccine more readily available to the public was made in July 2008 by the MCC. GSK announced towards the end of last month that the cervical cancer vaccine, Cevarix, can now be administered without a doctorâ??s prescription.
The announcement was prompted by statistics pointing to cervical cancer as being the most common cancer developed by South African women and the second leading type in women worldwide; the need to make the vaccine increasingly accessible appears validated as one in 26 South African women on average are at risk of developing cervical cancer, according to GSK figures.
Cancer contributing agents: HPV and sexual promiscuity
Cevarix is designed to increase protection against cervical cancer-causing virus types, the most prevalent being human papilloma virus [HPV] types 16 and 18. The highly infectious HPV virus is commonly associated with sexual activity and requires little to no penetrative intercourse to incite infection, only continuous exposure to HPV strains 16 and 18. Multiple sexual partnersâ?? further impact the rate of infection as the virus is transmitted exponentially. Figures point to an alarming 80 per cent of women acquiring a genital HPV infection by the age of 50.
The HPV virus has also been implicated in symptoms such as genital warts and some oral cancers but goes largely undetected in the early, precancerous stages of cervical cancer which is usually symptom-less.
The importance of vaccinations and cervical screenings
Leading health care organizations including the World Health Organization [WHO], the Cancer Association of South Africa [CANSA] and the International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC] recommend women have regular cervical screenings for early detection of the virus. Pap smears are largely considered accurate indicators of a woman’s cervical condition and itâ??s important to note that screening for cervical cancer and pre-cancers should continue in both vaccinated and unvaccinated women.
Cost implications and administration guidelines
As a new era dawns on the prevention of cervical cancer, so does controversy related to the administration of vaccines to girls and young women between the ages of 10 and 26 years old as advocated by experts. Concerned groups argue that providing vaccines to females in the pre-pubescent age group encourages sexual activity, whereas scientists advise that an enhanced immune response is greater in younger women who are sexually active at an earlier age as opposed to once girls have already become sexually active.
The current cost of the three-phased Cevarix vaccination in the private health sector is approximated at R700 and has not yet been made available at public clinics.
For more information on Cervical Cancer visit:
www.GlaxoSmithKline.com and www.CANSA.co.za .
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