HARARE – Government has commenced the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations which are targeting 800 000 girls as part of its concerted effort to fight cervical cancer.
The vaccine which was first introduced in 2014 and piloted in Beitbridge and Marondera targets girls between the ages of 10 and 14.
HPV causes most cervical cancers, as well as some cancers of the vagina, vulva, penis, anus and rectum.
Minister of Health and Child Care David Parirenyatwa said cervical cancer was the most common cancer affecting women in Zimbabwe, with the country having the second highest incidences in the world.
“Cervical cancer caused by sexually transmitted HPV is the second most common cancer in women in Zimbabwe and worldwide and results in more than 270 000 deaths each year.
“Due to poor health seeking behaviours, and health system challenges, access and utilisation of screening and treatment services are severely constrained, and more than 85 per- cent of deaths occur in women living in low and middle income countries such as ours,” said Parirenyatwa.
Chitungwiza Town Council spokesperson Lovemore Meya told the Daily News that the local authority has collaborated with the ministry of Health in the vaccination exercise.
“The campaign is aimed at vaccinating over 16 110 girls aged between 10 to 14 years and will be carried out by well trained nurses in all public and private schools.
To those girls who are out of school but are eligible for the vaccine they are being encouraged to receive HPV vaccination from health facilities in Chitungwiza at no fee,” said Meya.
The HPV vaccination programme which is sponsored by United Nations Population Fund has established 101 cervical cancer screening sites in Zimbabwe.
About 2 270 women are diagnosed with cancer in Zimbabwe annually with a mortality rate of 64 percent.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the HPV vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing certain HPV infections, and hence reduces the incidence of cervical cancer and other anogenital cancers.
However, it recommends that the introduction of HPV vaccine should not undermine or divert funding from effective screening programmes for cervical cancer and that the HPV vaccination is a primary prevention tool which should not eliminate the need for screening later in life.