HPV vaccine safe: Ministry

THE government has defended its decision to roll out the Humana Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination programme targeting school-going teenage girls, saying the move was meant to safeguard adolescents against cervical cancer.

BY VANESSA GONYE

This came after some parents and members of society expressed concerns over the safety of the drug, with some saying they feared the vaccinations could trigger sexual activity or infertility among girls in the target group.

The director of epidemiology and disease control in the Health ministry, Portia Manangazira, told NewsDay the vaccination was safe and rubbished claims that it could lead to infertility.

“Seeing the severity of a cancer possibility, any woman stands to benefit from the primary prevention strategy of vaccination provided they test HPV negative despite having had sexual exposure,” she said.

Manangazira said HPV was responsible for causing the majority of, but not all cervical cancers and those vaccinated would be free of all cancers caused by HPV.

“The vaccine does not affect fertility, prevent HIV or pregnancy. It is a very safe and effective vaccine. As of September 2014, we vaccinated about
20 000 girls in Beitbridge, Marondera and Kwekwe districts. Less than 10% reported having experienced any side effects and most reported were mild and moderate (headache, nausea, dizziness and pain at the injection site,” she said.

Manangazira said the vaccine helps to break the cycle of transmission.

At least 80 000 vaccinations were targeted in the just-ended exercise.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, with 99% of cases associated with HPV infection.

Every year, 530 000 new cases are diagnosed, with 275 000 women succumbing to cervical cancer.

Annually, 2 270 new cases of cervical cancer are recorded in Zimbabwe with 1 541 associated deaths.

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