Last week, the two pharmaceutical companies that make vaccines against cervical cancer announced that they would drop their prices for poor countries.
"The poorest countries will now have access to a sustainable supply of HPV vaccines for as low as US $4.50 per dose. The same vaccines can cost more than $100 in developed countries and the previous lowest public sector price was $13 per dose," said GAVI, the organization which negotiated the price drop in a press release.
According to the GAVI alliance, more than 85 percent of the 275,000 women who die each year from cervical cancers are in low-income countries. The vaccine inoculates against forms of the HPV virus that can cause cervical cancer and, according to the CDC, is "recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls, and for females 13 through 26 years of age who did not get any or all of the shots when they were younger. These vaccines can also be given to girls beginning at 9 years of age."
The new cost will be $4.50 for Merck’s Gardasil vaccine and $4.60 for GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix beginning this month in Kenya and followed by implementation in Ghana, Laos, PDR, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and the United Republic of Tanzania.
"When the new price was described, Dr. Paul D. Blumenthal, a professor of gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine who has pioneered cervical cancer prevention techniques in poor countries, said, 'Mazel tov!'," wrote Donald G. McNeil Jr. for the New York Times.
"As long as there is enough affordable vaccine for the ever-growing populations of poor countries, he said, 'This is good news for girls, women and their families.' "
However, one difficulty to inoculation is that the doses must be refrigerated and three must be delivered, usually over the course of several months.
And although the vaccinations are currently marketed to women, the HPV virus can be carried and transmitted by men and can also cause certain cancers in men as well. A HPV vaccine for men and boys was developed in 2011 and pediatricians recommend that males, as well as females, receive the vaccination.