Africa celebrates world immunization week

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 April 2014

immunisation3This week – April 22-27 marks the ‘African Vaccination Week’, which is being celebrated with the theme -“Vaccination – a shared responsibility”.

Global pharmaceutical giant – Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) today reiterates its support for the World Immunization Week, an annual initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners to celebrate and promote immunization, through awareness raising, education and communication.

The event will highlight the role and importance of everyone in fighting against the vaccine-preventable diseases, such as pertussis, measles, tetanus, diphtheria, influenza, rotavirus diarrhoea, pneumonia, viral hepatitis and cancers associated with HPV (cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers).

The efficacy of vaccines and their impact on public health are no longer questioned. They have contributed to the prevention of more than 25 circulating infectious diseases, and have allowed avoiding a large number of long-term handicaps.

immunisation2Likewise, the number of spared deaths each year is estimated at about 2 to 3 millions every year, thanks to immunization. However, despite the progress in Africa, many challenges remain.

The advantages of vaccination should be extended beyond children to include teenagers and adults. This will provide protection against deadly diseases, such as meningitis, diarrhoea, or even cancers associated with HPV (cervical cancer and ano-genital cancers).

In Africa, a woman dies every 8 hours because of cancer, deaths that can be avoided today – thanks to early immunization.

Vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus infections (human papillomavirus)

Human Papillomaviruses (HPV) are viruses that are quite common, as they may infect skin and mucous membranes. Researchers have identified more than 100 genotypes of papillomavirus, of which 40 may infect genitals, and 13 are recognized as oncogenes.

HPV infection is one of the most common Sexually Transmitted Infections
At least half of all sexually active individuals could encounter HPV during their lifetime.

Any sexual contact is associated with a risk of infection. Having a cutaneous and mucosal transmissive nature, HPV infection might occur despite condom use; hence vaccination proves to be important.

Today, there are two vaccines against HPV: the bivalent vaccine targeting the two main oncogenes HPV types (16 and 18); and the quadrivalent vaccine targeting HPV type 6 &11, which is responsible for 90% of cases of genital warts; and HPV type 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers, 40% to 50% of vulva cancer, 70% of vagina cancers and 95% of anus cancers.

immunisation1The World Immunization Week is the perfect occasion to shed light on the tremendous progress achieved in terms of immunization, and to draw attention to cancers induced by viral infections, such as HPV infections (uterus and vulva cancers), which can be prevented rather than cured.

It is crucial to stress the importance of integrating such types of vaccines in national public health programmes.

MSD - soren-bo-christiansen“MSD is proud to support World Immunization Week in Africa, which provides an important opportunity to raise awareness about the public health impact of vaccination,” says Dr. Soren Bo Christiansen – President of MSD’s Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

“Vaccines are one of the greatest public health stories in history, and MSD has played its part in that story. For more than 50 years, our scientists have helped prevent now-rare diseases such as measles and mumps, as well as diseases never thought preventable such as shingles and cervical cancer.

“Our commitment to protecting human health by ensuring availability and accessibility of vaccines is vital to our mission as a company,” Dr. Soren Bo Christiansen concludes.

With the participation of more than 180 countries, territories and regions around the globe, the World Immunization Week aims at issuing a reminder that vaccines help fight a large number of infectious diseases and calls for action, to improve immunization coverage for all individuals, irrespective of age.

msdAbout MSD

MSD – known today as Merck in the United States and Canada, is a global health leader, committed to help the world live better. MSD is a commercial name of Merck & Co., Inc., the headquarters of which is located in Whitehouse Station, NJ, United States.

With its medicines, vaccines, biological therapeutics, consumer and animal health products, the company collaborates with clients and work in more than 140 countries to provide innovative health solutions.

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