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Wed 12 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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HPV hold-up 'a disappointment'

The notable absence of the cervical cancer vaccine on the UAE's vaccination schedules has led physicians to suggest that politics and public health don't mix.

The notable absence of the cervical cancer vaccine on the UAE's vaccination schedules has led physicians to suggest that politics and public health don't mix.

Neither Merck's Gardasil or its rival Cervarix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, has been picked up by local health authorities, and the agencies have been accused of dragging their heels over the issue.

Both vaccines immunise patients against strains of the human papillomavirus linked to cervical cancer.

Dr Wissam Haddadin, medical advisor and franchise manager for Merck Gulf, said the current uptake rates were a work in progress, hinting that health authorities were stalling until public awareness campaigns were more established."

"She admitted there was no time frame for adding the vaccine to national schedules but said it was definitely "being looked at seriously".

Commenting on the region's lacklustre results, Dr Gertrud Koster, consultant obstetrician at Dubai London Clinic, said she was disappointed with the tepid reaction to the vaccine. "Imagine that you had a vaccination against AIDS - we would probably just vaccinate everybody immediately."

Physicians have speculated that time lag might be attributable to the perceived association between HPV and premarital sex.

"It does raise certain issues of morality and so on but we have to bear in mind that...even with strong family values people do stray from time to time," said Dr David W Saxton, medical director and chief of obstetrics, Al Corniche Hospital, Abu Dhabi.

"This is a major breakthrough medically in the management of quite a serious disease [but] it comes down to the culture and we have to move with whatever is acceptable to the community."

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