Kenya Ministry of Health is offering free HPV vaccines to reduce the threat of cervical cancer in Mombasa. This vaccination program starting from Friday, October 18, 2019 targets nearly 0.8 million girls – with the age of 10 years. Whereas, the free vaccine administration will be done in two doses with a gap of 6 months.
The efficiency of HPV vaccination in preventing cancers
HPV – Human Papillomavirus is a viral infection that transfers among people via skin to skin contact. Moreover, there are over 40 strains of HPV that can transfer through sexual contact. These HPV strains can affect the mouth, throat, and genitals. And also, they have an association with most cases of cervical cancer.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has released recent cancer statistics. It indicates that after breast cancer, cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer. Mombasa county was the first to report HPV infections, with signs suggesting that it will spread throughout Kenya.
It is expected that all public and private health facilities in Kenya will be taking part in this vaccination campaign to provide free HPV vaccines. Kenya has carried out pilot vaccination in Kitui during 2013 – 2015. And its outcome has shown that HPV vaccines are safe and efficient for use against Human Papillomavirus infections.
The pilot has covered nearly 22,500 children with ages 9 – 11. And has exhibited 95 % evidence-based success. The HPV vaccines are capable of preventing most cases of cervical cancer if given to a girl before exposure to the virus. Additionally, these vaccines can also prevent vulvar and vaginal cancer in women, and anal cancer and genital warts in men and women.
Need for routine screening and vaccination
The first vaccine against this viral infection became available in 2006. That was the result of decades of hard work especially by scientists in Germany. In 1983, these scientists found the link between cervical cancer and HPV infection.
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests the vaccination and screening of all girls. Whereas, the vaccination once a year can prevent the chances of cancer when they get older. However, the estimated shows that at least a decade will pass for its introduction in high-income and low-income countries.
Sub-Saharan Africa is lagging behind the rest of the world for the introduction of routine screening and HPV vaccines. That means most of the time the cervical cancer isn’t diagnosed and cured until it has reached an advanced stage. Apart from the negligence of African governments regarding healthcare, one of the barriers to vaccine adoption is the fear that the vaccination sexualizes young girls.
Moreover, there are also anti-vax movements claiming that vaccination leads to paralysis and autoimmune diseases. Rwanda, the first African county to use the HPV vaccine has revealed that countries in the region can get excellent coverage of this vaccination.
Proper mobilization and oriented programs, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, has shown that currently, 93 % of girls in this area are receiving the vaccine. These results from the eastern African neighbor has prompted Kenya to aim for reducing cases of cervical cancer.