The Catholic Church is asking the government to manage the side-effects of the vaccine used in the fight against cancer of the cervix.
Speaking on Friday, the Catholic Health Commission’s officials led by Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Catholic Diocese of Mombasa said the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has side-effects which must be considered as the government rolls out the campaign against cervical cancer, particularly among schoolgirls.
Archbishop Kivuva had joined President Kenyatta during the launch of the HPV vaccine targeting over 800,000 girls aged over 10 years.
Ms Jecinta Mutegi, a Catholic Health Commission official, said although Kenyans stand to benefit from the vaccine, the government, regulators and all health stakeholders must manage its harmful effects.
“They should document and conduct continuous tests to ensure the vaccine is safe. We have vaccines experts who have scientifically scrutinised the vaccine to ensure it is safe. Even the BCG vaccine has side-effects yet we still administer it to our children. What is important is to weigh the benefits vis-à-vis the side effects,” she said.
In an interview at Ziwani Primary School in Mombasa during the launch, Ms Mutegi said the government, through the Health ministry, carried out a successful pilot programme in Kitui.
Archbishop Kivuva and Ms Mutegi urged Kenyans to ensure their children are vaccinated against cancer of the cervix.
The Archbishop noted that there are some unscrupulous people who bring banned drugs into the country and use Kenyans as guinea pigs.
“The government should not just take vaccines from abroad and start distributing without ascertaining its safety. Whenever people are affected they rush to our hospitals … we’ve seen this before.
“The worst is that some people bring in drugs that have been banned in other countries. We need to be cautious,” he said.
SAFE TO USE
Speaking during the event, President Kenyatta defended the safety of the drugs, saying it has been proven scientifically.
He said the vaccine is crucial in the fight against cervical cancer, a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in Kenya.
“Please let us not fight science. Let us work together, answer questions from an intellectual point of view. Let us talk and agree because we all mean and want the same thing — a prosperous future for our children,” the President said.
Mr Kenyatta said the vaccine will lead to a reduction of new cancer cases and protect young women against early deaths.
“We have all witnessed how this scourge has destroyed lives and impoverished many others while trying to save the life of a father, mother and child suffering from cancer,” he said.
The Head of State said the vaccine will be available in all public, private, faith-based and non-governmental health facilities across the country.