Girls set for free can­cer vac­cine from May 2019

Of­fi­cial says they are wait­ing for vac­cines in fight against cer­vi­cal dis­ease


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All girls aged 10 years will next year in May be given a cer­vi­cal can­cer vac­cine in a bid to rapidly build up their im­mu­nity, the Health min­istry has said.

The na­tional roll-out of the free vac­ci­na­tion will be of­fered along­side other rou­tine in­fant vac­cines through more than 9,000 pub­lic, pri­vate, faith­based and NGO health fa­cil­i­ties.

The girls in this age group are clas­si­fied as a high-risk pop­u­la­tion.

Cer­vi­cal can­cer is the sec­ond most com­mon can­cer in women and biggest cause of can­cer deaths. Hu­man Papil­lo­mavirus (HPV) is the pri­mary cause of 99.7 per cent of all cer­vi­cal can­cer cases.

Dr Rashid Aman, the Chief Ad­min­is­tra­tive Sec­re­tary in the Health min­istry, said they have been as­sured of sus­tain­abil­ity and early next year, the first batch of vac­cines will be in the coun­try. “We are fi­nal­is­ing ev­ery­thing and we have been given the green light by our sup­plier, The Global Al­liance for Vac­cines and Im­mu­ni­sa­tions (Gavi), and will be shipped by our pro­cure­ment agency Unicef next year,” said Dr Aman.

Gavi helps Kenya pro­cure its vac­cines through a co-fi­nanc­ing model. Kenya pays for 10 per cent of its en­tire vac­cine budget, about Sh400 mil­lion, while Gavi pays the other 90 per cent, around Sh4 bil­lion, ev­ery year.

The money is used to buy vac­cines for in­fluenza, pneu­mo­nia, di­ar­rhoea and yel­low fever.

The na­tional roll­out was ini­tially planned for early this year but was pushed to next year due to high de­mand from coun­tries glob­ally for the HPV vac­cine and the need for the man­u­fac­turer to ac­com­mo­date more re­quests from in­ter­ested coun­tries.

The roll­out was sched­uled af­ter two suc­cess­ful pi­lot projects in Ki­tui County schools in four years demon­strated ac­cept­abil­ity and ef­fec­tive­ness.

The ob­jec­tive of the pi­lot was to iden­tify the best ap­proaches for HPV vac­ci­na­tion in the con­text of the na­tional im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme. “This was highly suc­cess­ful, reach­ing 95 per cent of the girls in Stan­dard Four at the time, with high ac­cep­tance,” said Dr Aman.

Dr Collins Tabu, the head of the Na­tional Vac­cines and Im­mu­ni­sa­tion Pro­gramme, told the

that all is set and they are wait­ing for the ship­ment of the vac­cines.

“We are ready for the pro­gramme but, at the same time, we have to en­sure we have enough vac­cines so that when the roll­out is here, we are not in­ter­rupted,” Dr Tabu said.

“The fa­cil­ity-based vac­ci­na­tion strat­egy will be sup­ple­mented with school out­reaches and tar­geted com­mu­nity out­reaches for girls out of school. Be­fore the in­tro­duc­tion, the gov­ern­ment will in­vest in in­ten­sive ad­vo­cacy and com­mu­nity mo­bil­i­sa­tion ef­forts and strong ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor en­gage­ment,” Dr Aman said.

Dr Tabu ex­plained that in the first two years, the gov­ern­ment will also im­ple­ment a catch-up vac­ci­na­tion of all girls from 11 to 14 years, to rapidly build up their im­mu­nity. “The vac­cine will be given as an in­jec­tion in the up­per arm in two doses, the sec­ond dose be­ing six months af­ter the first. Vac­ci­na­tion cards will be given to those who re­ceive the vac­cine,” he said.

The gov­ern­ment, as part of the roll­out plan, will sup­port the train­ing of school nurses on HPV vac­ci­na­tion and sup­port link­age with the near­est health fa­cil­ity for vac­ci­na­tion.

Kenya re­ports at least 4,802 cer­vi­cal can­cer cases ev­ery year, 2,451 (51 per cent) of which end up in death.

In the ab­sence of any new in­ter­ven­tion, it is pro­jected that Kenya will ex­pe­ri­ence at least 6,000 new cases by 2025. How­ever, at least 63 per cent of cer­vi­cal can­cer cases could be averted if 90 per cent cov­er­age is reached with HPV vac­cines.

The HPV vac­cine also pre­vents other types of can­cers like anal warts and can­cer and vul­var can­cer.

The virus is spread sex­u­ally and women tend to be in­fected with it at one time or another in their lives, es­pe­cially dur­ing their sex­ual de­but.

Whereas in the ma­jor­ity of women the im­mune sys­tem clears away HPV nat­u­rally, for a small per­cent­age, the virus per­sists in the cervix.

UON stu­dents fol­low pro­ceed­ings dur­ing a talk calling for early cer­vi­cal can­cer screen­ing. A vac­ci­na­tion drive is set for next year.

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