Celebrating 10 Years of Gardasil Vaccine in Peru
Updated: Sep 3, 2019
On Thursday night, Dr. Venegas invited us to go to a formal dinner for Merck & Co, celebrating ten years of the Gardasil Vaccine in Peru. Everyone looked very nice, and Manish and I looked very out of place, but we were thrilled to go. Dr.Venegas is a very important spokesperson for the HPV vaccine in Peru, and everyone seemed to know him. Countless doctors and businessmen came up to our table and exclaimed, “Gino!”. The event began with a speech from Dr. Javier Baez-Villasenor Moreno, the associate director of Merck & Co in Mexico.
He began by explaining how HPV develops in the body, and then described how cervical cancer is caused by HPV. Certain strands of HPV can cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, anus, penis and the oropharynx. Dr. Moreno kept stating that even though men could not develop cervical cancer, the HPV vaccine could prevent genital warts and anal cancer for men. Since the HPV vaccine was introduced in the United States in 2006, prevalence of HPV 16/18, the most common high-risk strands of HPV that cause about 70% of all cervical cancers, has decreased by 49% in women from ages 14 to 19. Dr. Moreno urged that pap smears are vital, but are not enough for cervical cancer diagnosis. He stated that in a retrospective study of 642 women diagnosed with cervical cancer in a large prepaid health plan, about 28% of women diagnosed with cervical cancer had at least one normal PAP test smear between 6 and 36 months before diagnosis. He explained that patient education of cervical cancer was incredibly important, and adding the HPV vaccine to routine PAP tests represents a comprehensive strategy for cervical cancer prevention. I learned that the incidence of HPV-related diseases is increasing in both genders, and that there is no standardized screening programs to detect HPV-related cancers in men and women besides cervical cancer. He explained that the quadrivalent vaccine has proven highly effective against certain HPV 6/11/16/18 related diseases in both genders.
Finally, he concluded that there is a huge issue of gender equity in terms of the benefits of vaccination in Central and South America, and that it is imperative that we shift the focus to preventing cervical cancer. It was an incredibly inspiring night. We were surrounded by men and women who had dedicated years to bringing the HPV vaccine to Peru, and had dedicated their careers to educating people on the importance of cervical cancer and other HPV-related disease prevention. They are increasing programs for patient education and standardizing screening programs, and will go on to save hundreds of lives. Manish and I were very humbled and learned a lot about cervical cancer treatment and prevention while eating a delicious traditional dinner.