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Qiagen, Merck Team on HPV Screening, Vaccination in Rwanda

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Qiagen will provide molecular diagnostics screening to women in Rwanda as part of a national cervical cancer prevention effort announced today.

As part of the initiative announced by Merck, Qiagen, and the government of Rwanda, Qiagen will provide screening for women between the ages of 35 and 45, and Merck will vaccinate girls between 12 and 15 years of age during the first three years of the program.

Cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer in women of all ages in Rwanda, the partners said, and as a result of the program, Rwanda becomes the first nation in Africa to offer a comprehensive prevention program that integrates HPV vaccination and HPV testing.

"It is our goal to create a comprehensive, coordinated program that includes HPV vaccination, cancer screening with HPV DNA testing, and treatment in order to address the nation's unmet needs for cervical cancer-related health services," Richard Sezibera, Rwanda's Minister of Health, said in a statement. "This vaccination and screening program brings us one step closer to reaching our goal of protecting the girls and women in our country."

Screening will be done on Qiagen's digene HC2 HPV DNA test and the careHPV test, which is a portable testing system designed to reach women in areas where getting access to medical care is more challenging.

Qiagen will provide 250,000 HPV screens at no cost along with necessary equipment and training. Merck will provide more than 2 million doses of the Gardasil vaccine, also for free.

Afterward, Qiagen will make its HPV test available under a tiered pricing structure "designed to enable developing countries to establish and maintain the use of HPV testing within national cervical cancer screening and treatment programs," the partners said. Merck will provide Gardasil at the discounted price for countries eligible for the Global Alliance for Vaccinations and Immunisation.

In 2009 Qiagen and Merck announced plans to collaborate on an HPV screening and vaccination program. Rwanda is the first recipient of the effort and becomes the first GAVI-eligible nation to implement an HPV vaccination and molecular testing to improve access to cervical cancer prevention programs.

Qiagen and Merck will continue to identify other suitable nations for the program, they said.

"We hope this initiative by the Government of Rwanda provides a helpful model for other resource-limited countries to consider as they work to develop their own programs," Mark Feinberg, chief public health and science officer for Merck Vaccines, said in a statement.

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