The tiny Asian country of Bhutan has become the first developing nation in the world to implement a national cervical cancer vaccination program. Merck is partnering with the government of Bhutan and the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) to initiate a six-year program aimed at reducing incidences of the disease.
Bhutan is a country of approximately 650,000 people located at the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains, bordering India and Tibet. Cervical cancer affects more women in Bhutan than any other cancer. Based on current estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 200 Bhutanese women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and about one-half of those women die.
The program, led by Her Majesty the Royal Grandmother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck and the Bhutan Ministry of Health, will provide an opportunity for appropriate girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 18 to be vaccinated with GARDASIL® [Human Papillomavirus Quadrivalent (Types 6, 11, 16 and 18) Vaccine, Recombinant] as part of this initiative.
“It has long been a priority of ours to make health programs like this available to women of our country,” says Dr. Ugen Dophu, director, Department of Public Health, Ministry of Health, Bhutan. “We’re pleased to have the support of Merck and the ACCF on such an important initiative.”
“Cervical cancer is a significant burden in Bhutan, said Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., vice president, medical affairs and policy, Merck Vaccines. “Working in partnership with committed governments and third-party partners is critical to the success of any program focused on enabling women in developing countries to benefit from the potential benefits of cervical cancer vaccination.”
Read the press release on the program in Bhutan.
Merck is pursuing a systematic approach to improve access to GARDASIL in the developing world. Included in that is a 2007 pledge to donate at least three million doses of GARDASIL through the charitable GARDASIL Access Program, which enables organizations and institutions in eligible lowest income countries to gain operational experience in the design and implementation of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination projects.
Since inception of the program, organizations and institutions in Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cameroon, Georgia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Moldova, Nepal, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda, and Uzbekistan have been approved to receive more than 496,000 doses of GARDASIL.
Learn more about the GARDASIL Access Program.