The World Health Organisation (WHO), Ministry of Health and Child Care and the Ministry of Primary And Secondary Education have joined hands in an endevour to scaling up the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine to reduce the risk of cervical cancer in young women.
The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine campaign was launched on Friday last week in the capital targeting 9-14 year old girls who are not yet sexually active.
Zimbabwe has adopted a school based approach for the vaccination programme.
However, in the first phase of the national scale up (2018-2019), where the largest number of girls of various ages were targeted, the multi-age cohort of 10-14 year olds who are out of school will be accorded the vaccination chance that will happening at different schools that are being used as centres annually.
HPV vaccine is a WHO recommended intervention to prevent infections of two types of human papillomavirus known to cause about 70% of cervical cancers.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Professor Paul Mavhima said as from Monday 27-31 May 2019, health facilities and some outreach points will vaccinate all girls aged 10-15 years.
“While most will be getting their second dose, all grade five girls and those that missed the programme last year will be vaccinated for the first time. We urge all parents, guardians, teachers, churches and communities to rally behind the two ministries, Health and Education, and encourage all eligible girls to receive this life-saving vaccine,” said Mavhima.
Worldwide cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer in women with 99% of the cases associated with HPV infection.
In Zimbabwe, cervical cancer is the biggest killer of women accounting for almost one third of all cancers reported in the country.
According to the National Cancer Registry, annually 2 270 new cases of cervical cancer are recorded with 1 541 associated deaths.
Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control, Dr Manangazira said they are going to scale up the vaccination programme in order to cover all young girls in the country.
“For more effective control of cervical cancer, there is a need to tackle the cervical cancer scourge in a more comprehensive manner including the HPV vaccination, early screening fro cervical cancer , effective treatment and palliative care for those with the disease already,” said Dr Mangazira.
WHO representative, Dr Alex Gasasira said the vaccine is safe, effective and presents exciting opportunities for public health in the longer term.
“WHO and other stakeholders rolled out the HPV vaccine in May and more than 780 000 girls aged 10-14 years including 11 948 out of school girls were vaccinated and overall vaccination coverage of 93% was achieved,” said Gasasira.
High HPV coverage will reduce the economic and human costs of cervical cancer in the long run.
Zimbabwe was the 8th African country to introduce HPV vaccine into its routine immunization programme.