Over 800,000 schoolgirls will on Friday benefit from a free cervical cancer vaccine funded by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI). The Alliance has invested about Sh 600 million into this project.
This will make Kenya the 16th African nation to roll out a free cervical cancer vaccine for 10-year-old schoolgirls. Kenya contributed its co-financing portion of roughly Sh 50 million to the planned roll-out of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
Health Cabinet Secretary said that this is only the introduction and every girl who will be turning 10 in the future will get vaccinated for Cervical Cancer.
“The vaccine will be offered nationally alongside other routine infant vaccines through an existing network of more than 9,000 public, private, faith-based and NGO health facilities free of charge to 800,000 girls, who are currently aged 10 and subsequently to all girls as they attain that age in the future,” she said.
The CS added saying that the country has in place more than 1.3 million doses of the vaccine against a target of 800,000 girls. Every girl aged 10 years must receive two doses of the vaccine six months apart.
After vaccination, the girls will receive an immunisation card that will be the primary document for establishing immunisation status and providing the date for the second dose.
Vaccines Officer at World Health Organisation (WHO) regional officer assured Kenyans that the vaccines have no side effects as witnessed in other parts of the world.
“There were no side effects witnessed and this has proven to be the safest in Africa,” Dr. Fiona Atahebwe said.
The government, through the Ministry of Health, had asked GAVI for support towards the procurement of vaccines and other supplies.
WHO has a target of completely eradicating Cervical Cancer and plans to vaccinate 90% of girls under the age of 15 by 2030 to achieve this target. The strategy involves implementing broader programmes for cancer screening and treatment.
The role of the HPV is to prevent serious or deadly infections. The vaccine works by preparing the body to fight the germs that cause infections. The vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of anogenital cancer and genital warts.
Additionally, HPV may decrease the incidence of oropharyngeal cancer as well as the maternal transmission of HPV infections to infants.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved three vaccines that are effective in preventing HPV infection.