Human Papillomavirus vaccine rolls out in South Africa


The North West Health Department in partnership with the Basic Education Department will be rolling out the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to be administered to school-going girls.

From 21 February 2017, teams of health professionals will be visiting all public schools across the province to administer free HPV vaccinations to girls in Grade four, who have already turned nine and older.

The first round of the campaign will run until the 28 March 2017.

The vaccination protects girls before they are sexually active from being infected by HPV and reduces the risk of developing HPV related cervical cancer later in life.

The vaccine was approved in South Africa in 2008; however it was only available through private outlets.

Government started rolling out the free vaccine to all grade four girl learners at all public schools in 2014, through the Integrated School Health Programme (ISHP).

According to International Agency for Research on Cancer, cancer of the cervix is amongst the common cancers affecting women in sub-Saharan Africa. Compared to Europeans, women in sub-Saharan Africa are five times more at risk.

The department said the key priority activities before actual implementation of the programme included community mobilisation, consultation with school community and ensuring that parents are informed to make healthy lifelong decisions for their children by providing accurate standardised messages about the vaccine.

Health MEC, Dr. Magome Masike, said the success of an immunisation project such as this, is highly dependent on the parental acceptance of the vaccine as an effective life-saving immunisation.

‘It is important that we protect our children, future women of South Africa against cervical cancer. The focus here is prevention and promotion rather than curative,’ said MEC Masike.

MEC Masike appealed to all communities to inform parents, guardians and extended families of young girls that the vaccination is available and is free.

‘Parents need to ensure that they have signed and return the consent forms which they will receive from the school that their child attends. No girl will be vaccinated without parental consent.’

More than 3000 deaths annually

In South Africa, cervical cancer is ranked as number 13 on the list of causes of deaths among females, resulting in 67,000 cases and 3498 deaths, annually.

In the North West, cervical cancer is among the first 10 causes of death in women above 45 years old.

For the adequate lifetime protection against cervical cancer to be achieved, the World Health Organization recommends that a minimum of two doses should be administered with a six months interval between doses before a girl is sexually active.

This story was sourced from the South African Government News Agency website.


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