Parents and teachers have been urged to disregard misinformation about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and take their teenage daughters for cervical cancer vaccination.
Cervical cancer is a type of cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection, in which the victim experiences uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that begin at the cervix and spread to the upper part of the uterus (womb).
Dr Alfred Langat the Kericho County Logistician of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI), stressed the importance of the HPV vaccine in an interview with KNA at the Kericho County Referral Hospital.
According to Langat, cervical cancer is Kenya’s second most common cancer among women.
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.
The vaccine will be given to girls aged 10 to 14 years in two doses six months apart, free of charge, at all of the County’s 181 immunising facilities, according to Dr Langat.
“I want to encourage our parents to take their daughters to be vaccinated and complete the doses as scheduled. I also urge headteachers to team up with the nearest health facility around their schools so that the girl child is protected,” added Dr Langat.
Kericho County is 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.
He stated that the County Health Department targets 63,322 girls across six sub-counties in Kericho, specifically Ainamoi, Bureti, Belgut, Londiani, Kipkelion, and Soin/Sigowet, and that the first HPV vaccine dose has been administered to 16,818 girls and the second HPV dose has been administered to 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 public misinformation about the HPV vaccine, which had no scientific backing, noting that it was safe and was intended to prevent teenage girls from developing cervical cancer later in life.
“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, including vulva, cervix, and vaginal cancers in women, anal cancer in both men and women, and penile cancer in both men and women.
Dr. Langat revealed that the County’s HPV vaccination campaign, which began in November 2018, will end on February 6, 2022.
In an interview with KNA, a teacher (who requested anonymity) from Upper Hill Academy, Litein in Kericho County’s Bureti sub-county, said the school had requested parental consent to have 70 female learners aged 10 to 14 years receive the first dose of the HPV vaccine at the DC Bureti sub-county headquarters civil servant’s clinic.
Kirinyaga County launched a campaign to vaccinate 32,000 girls aged 10 to 14 against cervical cancer last month.
County Director for HealthGeorge Karoki stated that the 100-day exercise would take place in primary schools in order to reach as many girls as possible when the school reopened in January.
He stated that the cervical cancer drive had been hampered by the Covid-19 challenges, with only 11 percent of the targeted age group having been vaccinated.
Karoki stated that they hope to increase the number through the aggressive Rapid Result Initiative (RRI) campaign.
Cervical cancer, he said, is one of the most common types, with a high mortality rate among women.
The Director appealed for public cooperation, saying, “We have been going round and so far we are pleased that the exercise is picking up.”
Doctor Joan Paula Bor of the Ministry of Health’s Cancer Control Program said the cancer burden in the country is still high and urged the public to heed the government’s call for early screening to enable easier diagnosis and treatment.
According to Bor, over 42,000 cancer cases are registered each year, and over 27,000 cancer-related deaths occur each year.
Gerald Macharia of the ClintoAccess Initiative applauded a global commitment to eradicating cervical cancer.
Macharia urged parents not to be afraid to seek screening services for their adolescent daughters, pointing out that the disease is both preventable and treatable.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru stated that the county is one of the top five in terms of cancer prevalence.