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Kenya rolls out free cervical cancer vaccine

Thursday October 17 2019

human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine reduces cases of cervical cancer, researchers say. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

NASIBO KABALE
By NASIBO KABALE
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Kenya will Friday become the 16th African nation to roll out a free cervical cancer vaccine for 10-year-old schoolgirls.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which will be administered to 800,000 girls, will mainly be funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi), who have disbursed $5,981,400 (about Sh600 million).

Kenya contributed its co-financing portion of $498,823 (about Sh50 million) towards the planned roll-out.

PROTECTION

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said it will cost Sh800 million in the year of introduction, where they target 800,000 girls.

“The vaccine will be offered nationally alongside other routine infant vaccines through an existing network of more than 9,000 public, private, faith-based and NGO health facilities free of charge to 800,000 girls, who are currently aged 10 and subsequently to all girls as they attain that age in the future,” she said.

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“Already, the country has in place more than 1.3 million doses of the HPV vaccine against a target of 800,000 girls for this year,” she added.

The CS noted that for maximum protection, all girls aged 10 years must receive two doses of the vaccine six months apart.

They will also receive an immunisation card that will be the primary document for establishing immunisation status and providing the date for the second dose.

SUPPORT

New Vaccines Officer at World Health Organisation (WHO) regional office Dr Fiona Atahebwe said the vaccines have no side effects as witnessed in other parts of the world. “There were no side effects witnessed and this has proven to be the safest in Africa,” she said.

In its application for the Gavi support, the government declared that it needed support towards the procurement of vaccines and other supplies.

To eliminate cervical cancer, the WHO proposes vaccinating 90 per cent of girls under the age of 15 by 2030. The strategy involves implementing broader programmes for cancer screening and treatment.

The role of the HPV is to prevent serious or deadly infections. The vaccine works by preparing the body to fight the germs that cause infections. The vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of anogenital cancer and genital warts.

Additionally, HPV may decrease the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer as well as the maternal transmission of HPV infections to infants.

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved three vaccines that are effective in preventing HPV infection.