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Take girls for HPV vaccine, Parents urged

Parents and head teachers in Kericho have been urged to ignore misinformation on Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and take their teenage girls for vaccination against cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that is associated with human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection and the victim experiences uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells which start at the cervix before spreading to the upper part of the uterus (womb).

In an interview with KNA at the Kericho County Referral Hospital, the County Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) Logistician Dr Alfred Langat stressed the need for the HPV jab, as cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Kenya.

“The government has thought it wise to bring preventive measures to protect our girls against cervical cancer which is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). 99.9 per cent of cervical cancer is caused by HPV which can stay in the body for close to 10-20 years then it starts causing invasive cancer.

It is unfortunate that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the country and it is the most common cause of cancer deaths in our country,” stressed Dr Langat.

The jab will be administered to girls between the ages of 10 to 14 years in two doses, six months apart free of charge across all the 181 immunising facilities in the County, noted Dr Langat.

“I want to encourage our parents to take their daughters to be vaccinated and complete the doses as scheduled. I also urge head teachers to team up with the nearest health facility around their schools so that the girl child is protected. In Kericho County we are targeting girls between the ages of 10 to 14 years. The vaccine offers 95 per cent lifeline protection against cervical cancer before they are exposed to the virus,” added Dr Langat.

He said the County Health department targets 63,322 girls across the six sub-counties in Kericho notably Ainamoi, Bureti, Belgut, Londiani, Kipkelion and Soin/Sigowet sub-counties and had so far administered the first HPV vaccine to 16,818 girls and for the second HPV dose of the vaccine a total of 4,941 girls.

“In Kericho County we have vaccinated 16, 818 girls with the first dose of the HPV vaccine and 4, 941 with the second dose. Ainamoi is leading in the HPV vaccination drive with 4,413, Bureti follows with 3,508, Soin/Sigowet is third with 3,036, Belgut is fourth with 2,272, Londiani is fifth with 2,700 and the last is Kipkelion with 889 children having been immunized with the HPV first dose.

The County medic dispelled misinformation that was being fed to members of the public about the HPV vaccine which had no scientific backing noting that it was safe and was intended to prevent the teenage girls from developing cervical cancer later on in their lives.

“Some people say that the vaccine may cause sterility this is not true. This can only be done through family planning and not through vaccines. The vaccine is targeting the human papillomavirus and not fertility. Science does not cheat, it gives us facts,” noted Dr Langat.

He stated that the Human papillomavirus causes several cancers notably; vulva, cervix and also vaginal cancers in women and anal cancer in both men and women in addition to penile cancer.

Dr Langat revealed that the HPV vaccination exercise in the County that commenced in November 2018 will close on February 6, 2022.

In an interview with KNA, a teacher (who sought anonymity) from Upper Hill Academy, Litein within Bureti sub-county of Kericho County, said the school had requested for parental consent to have 70 female pupils between the ages of 10 and 14 years get the first dose of the HPV vaccine at the DC Bureti sub-county headquarters civil servant’s clinic.

By Sarah Njagi

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