90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, January 2, 2012

Rwandans Welcome HPV Vaccine Program

One dose of the vaccine Gardasil, developed by Merck & Co. (AP)

Here in the U.S., the vaccine to prevent human papillomavirus, which can lead to cancer, has met some resistance. HPV is sexually transmitted, and some social conservatives warned that administering the HPV vaccine to young girls could encourage promiscuity.

The debate came to a head during a recent Republican debate when Rep. Michelle Bachmann criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s 2007 mandate, later overturned by the Texas legislature, that all 6th grade girls get the vaccine. Bachmann said Perry’s mandate amounted to government overreach.

HPV Vaccine In Rwanda

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, a new program has administered the vaccine widely, without controversy.

Dr. Peter Drobac, director of the Rwanda Project for Partners in Health told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that the program was launched in April 2011, and between April and August, 96 percent of 11-year-old girls in Rwanda received the vaccine.

Drobac says that the vaccine program has been welcomed, even by the country’s Catholic clergy members, who took part in a public awareness campaign to teach Rwandans about the vaccine.

He says the only pushback against the program in Rwanda has been over the fact that it’s limited to 11-year-old-girls.

“The only resistance we faced was from older girls and young women who also wanted to receive the vaccine once they heard it could prevent cancer,” he said.

Drobac says that as Rwanda has been able to bring down the incidences of infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, the country is turning attention to fighting cervical cancer.

“Cervical cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Rwanda,” he told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Partnership With Merck

The program was made possible because of a partnership that Rwanda entered into with the drug company Merck, which makes Gardisil, one of the two HPV vaccines.

“Merck agreed to provide enough doses to vaccinate every 11-year-old in Rwanda for three consecutive years, so those are being provided free of charge,” Drobac said.

The HPV vaccinations in Rwanda are not mandatory.

Guest:

  • Dr. Peter Drobac, director of the Rwanda Project for Partners in Health

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Spotlight

Here & Now resident chef and cookbook author Kathy Gunst shares her list of the best cookbooks of the year.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

December 18 Comment

College Counselor: ‘A Deferral Is Not A Denial’

Lisa Micele shares tips for applying to college — especially for students who have been deferred under early decision.

December 18 17 Comments

America’s Political Dynasties

Americans under 38 have only experienced one presidential election that did not involve a Bush or a Clinton.

December 17 2 Comments

Atticus Lish’s ‘Preparation For The Next Life’

The author's debut novel centers on an unlikely romance between an Iraq veteran and a Uyghur from China.

December 17 3 Comments

Diagnosing Ear Infections With Your Smartphone

The CellScope Oto is a clip-on gadget that turns a smartphone into an otoscope — the tool doctors use to check out a patient's eardrum.