About 800 school girls from Machakos County aged 10 years received free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) jabs Thursday, in the ongoing drive to combat cervical cancer among women.
The inaugural ceremony was held at the Machakos Level 5 hospital, bringing together pupils from various primary schools within Machakos Sub County including Muthini, St. Mary’s Girls, Township Primary and Machakos School for the Blind.
While launching the exercise, the County Executive for health Dr. Ancent Kituku called upon all stakeholders including religious leaders to demystify the current misconceptions surrounding the vaccine, but instead mobilize all targeted girls to get the vaccine.
Dr. Kituku noted that much of what was being fed to members of the public about the jab is unfounded and based merely on hearsay with no proven scientific backing.
He said the vaccine was quite safe to human beings and only intended to prevent them from developing cervical cancer later in life.
“This vaccine has been used in the US, Europe where is has been proven to be 95 per cent effective in blocking the development of cervical cancer in women. My appeal is for churches and other religious bodies to educate their faithful on the benefits of having this jab in line with the country’s agenda of enhancing provision of quality health care to the public,” he said.
He revealed the county government had already set aside 53 functioning health units across the county where girls will be attended to, even after the schools have closed for the December holidays.
A total of 2,530 health workers will be enjoined in the exercise to help the county attain a 100 percent success rate.
Dr. Kituku nevertheless urged the public to take advantage of the free cancer screening services being provided at the newly opened Machakos Cancer and Research Center and other health facilities in the county.
On his part, a pediatrician based at the Machakos Level 5 hospital Dr. Charles Nzioki has lauded the initiative terming it a great milestone in the fight against cancer.
He lauded the national government for introducing the vaccine and assured parents of its safety saying it has been used in other countries for years including Australia where it has recorded 95 per cent efficiency.
“Today we are celebrating our children. This vaccination will in the long run confront the spread of cervical cancer in women for many years to come,” said Dr. Nzioki.
The pediatrician similarly advised women below 50 years to visit private hospitals to get the PVC vaccine since the state is only administering the jab to young girls owing to the exorbitant costs involved.
He said a single jab which is supposed to be administered twice within a span of six months for it to be effective goes for Sh5, 000.
The initial launch of the national exercise was officially flagged off by President Uhuru Kenyatta last Friday in Mombasa, aimed at curbing the number of Kenyan women dying from cervical cancer in the coming years.
The government targets a total of 800,000 girls every year in the multi-billion program with support from WHO and UNICEF, under the Ministry of Health through the National Vaccines and Immunization Programme.
According to statistics from the Ministry of Health there were 5,250 cases of cervical cancer and 3,286 deaths in Kenya reported in 2018, making the disease among the leading causes of deaths among women.
By Samuel Maina and Rachael Kilonzo