WHO-BACKED EXERCISE

Kenya introduces malaria, cancer vaccines

Ghana and Malawi have malaria jab while more than 90 countries have HPV vaccine

In Summary

• About 120,000 children will be vaccinated against malaria in select hospitals in Nyanza and Western counties.

• At least 4,800 Kenyan women develop cervical cancer every year.

Health CS Sicily Kariuki with kids fighting cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital on December 23, 2018
SUPPORT: Health CS Sicily Kariuki with kids fighting cancer at Kenyatta National Hospital on December 23, 2018
Image: MAGDALINE SAYA

Kenya will introduce two life-saving vaccines next month after years of preparation.

The world's first anti-malaria vaccine will be launched on July 15 while the HPV vaccine - which can prevent 90 per cent of all cervical cancer cases - will also be introduced mid-next month.

The vaccination programme is backed by the World Health Organisation.

 
 

About 120,000 children will get the malaria vaccine, called Mosquirix, in select hospitals in Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, Busia, Kisumu, Homa Bay, Migori and Siaya counties.

The children, aged 6-24 months, will get four doses at six, seven, nine and 24 months through an injection on the upper arm.

"I would like to assure the public that the vaccine is safe. In large-scale clinical testing involving thousands of African children, the vaccine has not had any major side-effects," Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said on Thursday.

The pilot will assess the feasibility of delivering the four doses in real-life settings and assess the vaccine’s potential to reduce child deaths.

Three major donors are partnering to provide Sh5 billion for the first phase of the vaccine pilot in Kenya,  Malawi and Ghana.

Mosquirix has undergone all clinical trials and was effective in 30 to 50 per cent of cases, says the WHO.

However, because no defence against malaria is perfect, the vaccine is being considered in addition to the existing preventive measures like insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

 

Malaria is among the top five killers of Kenyan children aged less than five years.

The ministry of health will also launch the highly effective human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls aged 10 years next month, but the exact date has not been set.

By last year, about 90 countries had included HPV vaccines as a part of their national vaccination schedule.

"The vaccine will be offered free of charge as part of the routine immunisation programme through an existing network of over 9,000 public, private, faith-based and NGO health facilities to 10-year-old girls," CS Kariuki said yesterday. 

The vaccine helps the body fight HPV, a common, sexually transmitted virus that causes 99.7 per cent of all cervical cancer cases.

That is why the WHO recommends the vaccine for young girls before exposure to the virus.

"Prior to the introduction, the government will roll out intensive advocacy and community sensitisation and mobilisation efforts," the CS said. 

Cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.

"Kenya reports at least 4,802 cervical cancer cases every year, 2,451 (51 per cent) of whom end up dying," says Collins Tabu, head of vaccines at the Ministry of Health.