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Pharmaceutical Firms Reduce Prices of Cancer Vaccines

Cervical cancer is a huge problem for most governments in Africa that have failed to protect most women from the debilitating disease.

But an announcement at the World Economic Forum may just change the lives of women on the continent.

Two pharmaceutical companies, Merck and GSK, that make cervical cancer vaccines announced that they would cut their prices to the world’s poorest countries to below $5 per dose, eventually making it possible for millions of girls to be protected against a major deadly cancer.

The agreement made possible with the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership focused on children’s health, announced a record low price for the HPV vaccine. They said the vaccine will sell for $4.50 and $4.60 per dose respectively.

Cervical cancer kills an estimated 275,000 women a year in poor countries where pap tests are impractical and the vaccine is far too expensive for the average woman to afford.

Experts said the price cut could lead to a significant advance in women’s health.

In Zimbabwe, cervical cancer is the most prevalent form of the disease. The country is number 7 in the world for the highest recorded rates of cervical cancer deaths.

The new cost of the vaccination could save women upward of $60 to access the two or three dose vaccination.

Currently in Zimbabwe the HPV vaccine is only available in the private health sector selling at $26 per dose plus the cost to have it administered, around $35.

VOA reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke to Cancer Association of Zimbabwe’s knowledge manager Tafadzwa Chigariro who welcomes the slashing of vaccine prices saying it will help save lives.
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Earlier this year, Zimbabwe which launched a cervical cancer vaccination program was forced to delay the scheme due to lack of funds.

The Human Papilloma Virus is sexually acquired and can lead to cervical cancer. The HPV vaccination is given to young girls before they become sexually active.

Women of up to the age of 26 can also be given the vaccination – three doses over a period of six months.