CERVICAL CANCER

Girls to be vaccinated to stop cancer deaths by 2030

At least one woman will be at risk of dying of cancer every three minutes if jab against human papillomavirus is not given

In Summary

• Free vaccination drive to start next month across 9,000 public, private, faith-based and NGO hospitals.

Human Papillomavirus.
CANCER: Human Papillomavirus.
Image: /COURTESY

 

At least one woman will be at risk of dying of cancer every three minutes by 2030 if girls aged between nine and 13 are not vaccinated against human papillomavirus.

A meeting of Commonwealth Women Affairs ministers in Nairobi last week made a resolution to ensure all girls between the ages of nine and 13 have access to immunity against HPV by 2030.

 

The ministers also agree to prioritise cervical; cancer in health projects during their 12th forum.

In Kenya, the Health Ministry said all 10-year-old girls will receive the vaccine at the end of this month.

The World Health Organization recommends that girls above 10 should get two doses of the vaccine given six to 12 months apart.

The decision to vaccinate 10-year-olds is because there is a shortage of the vaccine due to roll out in many countries. 

The vaccine will be given for free at about 9,000 health facilities countrywide.

Health CS Sicily Kariuki last week told the Star the vaccine will be offered through an existing network of private, public, faith-based and NGO hospitals.

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

 

Most people get a genital HPV infection through direct sexual contact. The virus can, however, be passed over to another person through skin contact.

"If no action is taken on cervical cancer by 2030, cases of cervical cancer will rise by 55 per cent and death-related cases will rise by 62 per cent," Commonwealth health adviser Dr. Mbololwa Mbikusita-Lewanika told the meeting.

According to the health ministry, about 2,451 women die in Kenya every year due to cervical cancer.

Lewanika said Commonwealth evidence base for cancer control should be established and that states should support negotiation of a fair price for HPV vaccines.

The meeting identified out of pocket payments, unexpected circumstances such as complications, and unplanned caesarean operations among barriers to women's access to affordable health care. 

Others included geographical distance, and gender and social barriers such as lack of empowerment and decision-making powers. 

Lewanika said diseases that kill women are treatable. "Women are not dying of diseases we can't treat. They are dying because societies have yet to make the decision that their lives are worth saving."

He encouraged research into causes and various approaches to control cancer in different health care settings. 

Edited by Peter Obuya.