Merck claims its immunization against human papillomavirus strains which cause cervical cancer is overwhelmingly effective (New York Times ). There are more than a quarter of a million cervical cancer deaths a year worldwide, many of them in poorer countries where women do not have access to regular Pap smears that could detect the disease earlier. If this bears up, it could be a momentous health advance — enthusiasts say it could prevent at least 70% of cervical cancer deaths — although women would still need regular screening tests. Now, going beyond questions of clinical efficacy: what is Merck going to charge for the vaccine in the Third World? Would putting in the infrastructure for regular gynecological checkups be a less costly alternative to lining the pockets of Big Pharma? Is there the political will to do so?
Delight abounds at the recognition of the IAEA and Mohammed ElBaradei, which among other things is a reaffirmation of the role of diplomacy, a reinforcement of the urgent issue of nonproliferation facing the world, and a slap in the face to U.S. unilateralism in the Middle East and our undercutting of the United Nations.
Happy 74th birthday to the wry Desmond Tutu, who said: “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”