• WHO recommends that all girls aged above 10 should get two doses of HPV vaccine given six to 12 months apart.
• Vaccine said to work best before one contracts HPV; those over 10 advised to get it before 26 years.
All 10-year-old girls will receive the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer at the end of this month, the Ministry of Health has said.
The announcement comes after delays occasioned by opposition from religious groups led by the Catholic Church.
The rollout across the country was approved by the parliamentary committee on Health on Thursday and will cost Sh475 million.
The vaccine is meant to prevent cervical cancer among young women who are sexually active and are at higher risk of exposure to cancer caused by HPV.
“Different people used to do different things to prevent diseases in the older days before vaccines 40 years ago. So let's all be champions for immunisation and preventive measures for HPV and cervical cancer," Rose Jalang’o of the National Vaccines and Immunisation Programme at the ministry said on Thursday.
She spoke in Nairobi at a sensitisation forum for women MPs on HPV vaccine organised by NGO Kenya Network of Cancer Associations.
MPs who attended the meeting included Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege, Esther Passaris (Nairobi), Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo and former Nairobi Speaker Beatrice Elachi.
Recently, doctors supported the plan by the ministry to vaccinate the thousands of 10-year-old girls against cervical cancer.
The Kenya Medical Association dismissed concerns by Kenya Catholic Doctors Association who had claimed 10-year-old girls are too young to contract HPV, which is contracted through sexual intercourse and is the primary cause of 99.7 per cent of all cervical cancer cases.
Cancer of the cervix kills 2,451 Kenyan women every year, head of vaccines at the Ministry of Health Collins Tabu says.
"KMA finds the call by the KCDA for a boycott on the vaccine to be unfounded on evidence and utterly irresponsible as it denies our women a potentially life-saving intervention against cervical cancer and warts," convenor of KMA’s reproductive health committee Boaz Otieno-Nyunya said.
"KMA fully supports the ministry’s efforts in disease prevention and its comprehensive response to the statements made by KCDA."
He said the World Health Organization recommends that all girls aged above 10 should get two doses of HPV vaccine given six to 12 months apart.
"The vaccine is most effective before a girl is exposed to the virus and is proven to be one of the most effective methods for preventing HPV," Nyunya said in a statement on Thursday.
The vaccine directs the body to destroy HPV.
He said for women who have not been vaccinated, the recommendation is that the same should be taken before 26 years.
"There is no research evidence that the vaccination is associated with early initiation of sexual activity or risky sexual behaviour," he added.
Health CS Sicily Kariuki told the Star, "The vaccine will be offered free of charge as part of the routine immunisation programme through an existing network of more than 9,000 public, private, faith-based and NGO health facilities to 10-year-old girls."
"Prior to the introduction, the government will roll out intensive advocacy and community sensitisation and mobilisation efforts."
Cervical cancer is the most frequent cancer among women aged between 15 and 44 years.
"Kenya reports at least 4,802 cervical cancer cases every year, 2,451 (51 per cent) of who end up dying," Tabu said.
Edited by R.Wamochie