The government in collaboration with the Gavi Alliance and other partners will on Friday, October 18th this year launch the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine in Mvita, Mombasa County.
The Health Cabinet Secretary (CS), Sicily Kariuki said the vaccine that will cost Sh. 800 million will be offered nationally alongside other routine infant vaccines through an existing network of over 9,000 public, private, faith based and non-governmental organization health facilities free of charge, to 800,000 girls, aged 10 years.
She said the country already has in place more than 1.3 million doses of the vaccine against the targeted number of girls, noting that all girls who turn 10 years in future will receive the vaccine.
“For maximum protection, girls aged 10 years must receive two doses of the vaccine, six months apart. Those vaccinated will be given vaccination cards for follow up, “ said the CS.
The CS who made the remarks on Wednesday during a HPV Vaccine Introduction to Stakeholders media breakfast at a Nairobi hotel, said the aim of the vaccine is to prevent cervical cancer which leads to nine deaths daily among women in the country.
She said in Kenya, cancer is the third leading cause of death after infectious and cardiovascular diseases, noting that in 2018 a total of 49,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed and 33,000 deaths were documented.
“Breast, cervical and esophageal cancers are the leading cancer deaths in the country and cervical cancer is now preventable through vaccination,” she added and assured Kenyans that cervical cancer vaccine is safe and effective as it has been evaluated and licensed for use in the country.
The CS announced that the vaccine is in routine immunization programs in more than 115 countries worldwide.
Kariuki said vaccines are a lifesaver as they protect children and adults from diseases, lifelong disabilities and deaths and urged Kenyans to take their children for vaccinations offered in health facilities.
She said the roll out of the vaccination exercise is supported by multi-sectoral stakeholders who include ministries of Education and the National Treasury, religious organizations, parliamentary committee for health, County governments’ medical professional associations, and the cancer, child health and immunization civil society organizations.
Speaking at the event, the Head of National Vaccines and Immunization Programme, Dr. Collins Tabu cited negative publicity as one of the major challenges that has hindered the administration of the vaccine.
He said the negative publicity has made the public perceive the vaccine as birth control agent.
“Other challenges are vaccine supply chain constraints, inconsistent support from stakeholders and reaching the targeted girls who are out of school,” added Dr. Tabu.
At the media briefing a cervical cancer survivor, Millicent Kangoga, a mother of two told the gathering that cultural and religious beliefs deterred her from seeking medical assistance at the early stages.
“When I finally sought medical attention I was devastated and contemplated committing suicide. If I knew early enough, I would have gone for the screening and necessary treatment,” she lamented and urged Kenyans to welcome the vaccine open heartedly.
By Rosebell Njega/Charles Kirundi