Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki has appealed to parents and guardians of girls aged between 10 and 14 years to bring them out to get the HPV jab with an assurance that it was a “safe and effective vaccine.”
The appeals comes amid concern from a section of religious organizations over the safety of the vaccine, with Archbishop Martin Kivuva of the Catholic Diocese of Mombasa being quoted last week as appealing to the government to help manage side effects associated with the jab.
While drumming up support for the vaccination campaign that was launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta last week, the CS said the vaccine had gone through a “very rigorous assessment” and proven safe.
Speaking during a familiarization tour of the newly opened Othaya Level Six Hospital in Nyeri Thursday, Kariuki said the pilot phase of the vaccine assessment was carried out between 2014 and 2015 in Kitui with no adverse impact being recorded.
She said the vaccine had been in use in some 155 countries globally and its introduction in the country was long overdue.
“No government would be so irresponsible to introduce a vaccine that is not safe,” reiterated the CS, while lashing at the naysayers, saying it was extremely backward to oppose such a noble initiative.
“We have become a country of getting political around everything, even on things or initiatives that are lifesaving,” she said.
She reminded Kenyans that cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of deaths in the country, with cervical cancer that the vaccine is aimed at preventing, coming second after breast cancer.
“Let us give our girls what they need at this time,” said the CS, even as she said the onus was upon parents and guardians of young girls to consider taking this lifesaving vaccination.
The CS said the government was targeting about 800,000 girls countrywide, adding that some 1.3 million doses were available for the first round of vaccination, before it is introduced in the country’s routine immunization schedule.
It is estimate that around 5, 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the country with 3, 286 deaths recorded annually.
Meanwhile, the CS directed that the Othaya Level 6 hospital that opened its doors to patients six weeks ago to be accredited to NHIF with immediate effect, even as she offered to fast track the recruitment of more staff to enable it operate optimally.
She said she will also push for the phase two program which includes construction of a mortuary, radiology and diabetes center.
Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga urged area residents as well as patients from neighboring counties to take full advantage of the referral hospital, saying it was a huge investment from the national government in line with its Big 4 Agenda.
The facility becomes the fourth referral hospital in the country after Kenyatta National Hospital, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret.
He assured residents that his government will work closely with the Ministry of Health to ensure that both the HPV roll-out and UHC program were successful.
By Samuel Waititu