Kenya has moved to protect girls and women against the deadly cervical cancer by embracing a new vaccine.
The delivery of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into the country last week makes Kenya the first country to protect girls aged 9- 13-years against cervical cancer.
The country delivered the first vaccine soon after GAVI Alliance, an organisation spearheading support for the vaccines, announced a lower price in developing countries.
In Kenya, the HPV vaccinations, which targets at least 30 million girls in more than 40 countries for protection against cervical cancer by the year 2020, will initially be introduced in a county as part of the pilot project before it is rolled over nationally.
The first round of the project took place at Central Primary School in Kitui County.
The HPV vaccination will be given to close to 20,000 girls in Kitui, with health education on HPV and cervical cancer, hygiene and hand washing being provided to both sexes.
Health practitioners say Kitui was chosen because of its good performance in routine immunisation and outreach campaigns.
"This is an important moment for Kenyan women as cervical cancer kills more Kenyan women than any other cancer. By supporting countries to vaccinate girls aged nine to 13, we are helping to protect future generations of women against cervical cancer," Dr Seth Berkley, GAVI CEO told delegates at the Women Deliver 2013 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Those behind the vaccination project argue that vaccinating this age group would also provide an opportunity to deliver other services linked to sexual and reproductive health as well as nutrition.
"When you look at the cancer burden in developing countries, especially in Africa, it is clear we cannot withstand a cancer epidemic. We must do something and that is why I am really looking forward to developing countries getting access to HPV vaccines,'' Dr Christine Kaseba, Zambia's First Lady, told the meeting on the theme 'healthy girls, healthy women'.
Kenya is represented at the four-day conference by Rachel Ruto, wife of Deputy President William Ruto.
Gavi is expected to introduce the HPV vaccine to Ghana, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic in South Eastern Asia, Malawi, Niger and Sierra Leone later in the year and in Tanzania next year.
However, Rwanda is expected to become the first country to roll out the vaccine nationally, with support from Gavi Alliance.
Malaysian model Genevieve Sambhi, a cancer survivor, who spoke at the conference said the HPV vaccine "is over 70 per cent effective against cervical cancer".
In addition to announcing a "low price'' of USD4.50 (about Sh378) per dose from a previous USD13 (about Sh1,092) to ensure affordability by targeted countries, with HPV, the Alliance, which brings also brings together the World Health Organisation, Unicef and the World Bank halved the time lag that can exist in getting vaccines out to poorer countries down to six years.
In developed countries, a dose of the vaccine costs $100 (Sh8,400).