cancer vaccine launched in SA

Zinhle Mapumulo

Zinhle Mapumulo

The much-anticipated cervical cancer vaccine has finally been launched and is now available in pharmacies.

Gardasil, branded as quadrivalent human papillomavirus (HPV) recombinant vaccine, is aimed at protecting women and girls as young as nine against diseases caused by the HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18. These include cervical cancer, abnormal and precancerous cervical lesions, genital warts, vaginal and vulvar cancer.

The vaccine was launched last week. It is not yet available for free at public health centres, but it is available in private clinics and hospitals for R770 an injection, which will amount to more than R2000 since the vaccine is administered in three doses.

Beverley Cowper, medical director at MSD said: "We are pleased to announce the launch of the quadrivalent human papillomavirus recombinant vaccine.

"Clinicals conducted over the years showed that the vaccine is 100 percent effective in preventing vaginal cancer and genital warts. As for cervical cancer the vaccine proved to prevent 99percent of HPV 16 and 18 related pre-cancers and nonevasive cancers," said Cowper.

However, she said the vaccine might not result in protection for all recipients.

"Like any other vaccine protection is not guaranteed for everybody," Cowper said. The healthcare provider should inform the recipient or the parent of the girl about this.

"Recipients should also know that the vaccine is not intended to be used for treatment of active genital warts and cervical cancer.

"It is important for every female to note that vaccination does not substitute for cervical cancer screening."

The vaccine will be available at the pharmacies from today.