Cervical cancer vaccination to benefit million schoolgirls

BY STAFF REPORTER

OVER a million girls are set to receive free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine this week as the Health ministry scales up immunisation to curb the spread of cervical cancer.

The programme, which kicked off on Monday, is targeting girls aged 10 to 15 years. Most of the girls will be receiving a second dose, while all Grade 5 pupils and those who missed last year will be vaccinated for the first time.

The first phase of the national programme (2018-2019) targeted girls between ages of 10 and 14. Health facilities and community outreach points are being used in order to access all eligible girls.

The Health ministry has said the vaccine is safe and effective in ensuring long-term health benefits for women in the country.

Incidences of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe are said to be 35 per 100 000 women, compared to the global average of 15,1. Annually, there are 2 270 new cases reported, with 1 451 associated deaths in Zimbabwe. Statistics show that 99% of cervical cancers associated with HPV infection, while about seven in every 10 women will have about HPV at some point in their life time.

Speaking at a Press conference last Friday, Primary and Secondary Education minister Paul Mavhima urged parents, guardians and teachers to rally behind the programme.

“The government has adopted a school-based approach for the vaccination,” he said.

He expressed gratitude to partners like GAVI and Vaccine Alliance for availing adequate vaccines to cover all eligible girls across the country.

The national HPV programme was officially launched by the First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa last year in Mutare with the thrust of expanding access to cervical cancer prevention.

Zimbabwe is the eighth country to introduce HPV vaccine into its routine immunisation programmes.

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