New Vaccine to Eradicate Cervical Cancer Causing Infection
Ministry of Health and Child Care has today introduced a vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is the most common viral infection causing cervical cancer in women.
Addressing the media in Harare, Health and Child Care Minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa said the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested vaccinating young girls before indulging in sexual activities to protect them from getting the HPV which causes cervical cancer.
He added that the vaccine had already been successfully used in two towns (Marondera and Beitbridge) in the country and will now be implemented countrywide.
“The WORLD Health Organisation has recommended vaccinating girls before they are sexually active thus between the ages of 9-14 years to protect them from getting HPV infection,
“The vaccine has been successfully piloted in two districts in Zimbabwe from September 2014 and was well tolerated among the girls aged 9-13. Every girl will be vaccinated against HPV in May this year, this will be done through full involvement and contribution of all stakeholders to make sure everyone is reached with vaccines and other health interventions,” said Parirenyatwa.
The WHO Human Papilloma Virus vaccine position paper recommends that countries take advantage of the HPV Vaccine Platform of two doses per recipient to guarantee a life time protection from the HPV infection.
The national scale will cover all 63 districts and about 800 000 girls to be vaccinated through school based programs.
Parirenyatwa added that the incidents of cervical cancer in the country are reported to be higher than the global average and about 7 in every 10 women will have HPV at some point in their life.
“The incidents of cervical cancer in Zimbabwe is reported to be 35 per 100 000 women as compared to the global average of 15.1, annually there are 2270 new cases reported with 1451 associated deaths in Zimbabwe with 99% cervical cancers associated with HPV infection,
“Two strains of HPV (HPV 16 and HPV 18) are found to cause over 70% of the cervical cancer cases, these cancer causing strains, 16 ans 18 are vaccine preventable,” he added.
Speaking at the same event, UNICEF Chief of Health and Nutrition Nejmudin Bilal said by 2050 cervical cancer cases will amount to 1 million out of which 900 000 will be in developing countries.
The risk factors for HPV infection and cervical cancer include early sexual debut and multiple sex partners.
“Currently 7 in every 10 people will have HPV infection at some point in their life time, having realized the gravity of cervical cancer incidence in Zimbabwe Ministry of Health with support from it partners such as UNICEF, Gavi, WHO decided to introduce the HPV vaccine in pilot projects in Zimbabwe in 2014 and 2015,” he said.
The HPV vaccine will be given to girls aged 9-14 years and it will be taken in two dosages, the second dosage can be taken after 6 to 15 months.
The vaccine has been used and tested in many other countries where it has reduced the screening burden and number of cervical cancers.