Cervical cancer is reported to be the 4th most prevalent cancer in the world. In the year 2020, around 604,127 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer around the world. In the same year, 341,831 women died of cervical cancer. To this day, it is still a threat to a lot of women even though both its incidence and mortality rate have been on the decline in recent years.
Much of the reduction in cervical cancer deaths has been attributed to the widespread availability of testing for it. Early detection leads to earlier treatment, leading to fewer casualties.
However, another cause for the decline in cervical cancer cases has now been attributed to the current availability of the cervical cancer vaccine. First released in 2006, this vaccine targeted human papillomaviruses as these are one of the significant risk factors for cervical cancer. It has been a massive success, showing that it effectively combats two variants of HPV that cause 75% of cervical cancer cases as well as two variants that also cause genital warts.
What is Cervarix?
Cervarix is a vaccine against cervical cancer produced by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals that was released in 2011. It is a recombinant Human Papillomavirus Bivalent (Types 16 and 18) Vaccine approved for use in patients between 9 to 25 years of age. It is not meant to prevent all types of cervical cancer, but the proteins being used in the vaccine are responsible for 75% of cervical cancer cases.
Cervarix is supplied in a suspension available in 0.5ml single-dose prefilled syringes. It should be administered by a healthcare practitioner intramuscularly and the full two or three doses should be completed before a patient can be considered vaccinated.
How does Cervarix work?
Cervarix works by targeting the outer shell or capsid of the human papillomavirus. This shell is made up of L1 proteins. Cervarix contains purified L1 proteins of HPV type 16 and 18 created through a process called recombinant DNA technology. These proteins are introduced into the body through benign virus-like particles so that they will be recognized by the body, triggering an immune response
Once this immune response is triggered, the body is then able to create antibodies specifically to find and eliminate L1 proteins. So if the patient who underwent the vaccine gets exposed to HPV, the antibodies will then attack the L1 proteins in the HPV shell, causing the virus to be eliminated.
How many doses of Cervarix is needed?
It depends on how old the patient is when they get their Cervarix dose. For patients who are between 9 to 15 years of age, Cervarix can be given twice six months apart. For patients over 15, 3 doses are necessary and should be given within 6 months as well. The first and second dose can be given one month apart, then the third dose should be given 5 months from the second dose.
Are there any side effects to Cervarix?
The most common side effects from getting the Cervarix vaccine are:
- Muscle pain
- Pain at the site of injection
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