Some 800,000 girls across Kenya will be protected against cervical cancer annually following the introduction of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into the country’s routine immunisation programme, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki announced last month at a launch ceremony in Mombasa County.
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“Scaling up access to quality health services, particularly for women and girls, is a critical part of Kenya’s Big Four Action Plan,” said Sicily Kariuki. “Cervical cancer is the leading cause of female cancer deaths in Kenya. Working with partners like Gavi, UNICEF and WHO to introduce the HPV vaccine into our routine immunisation programme is an important step forward in ensuring the health and long-term prosperity of the Kenyan people.”
The vaccines, provided through support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will aim to reach all girls aged 10 in two doses administered six months apart.
The East African region has the highest burden of cervical cancer in the world. In Kenya, where HPV is the number one cause of cancer in women between the ages of 15 and 44, approximately 5,250 new cases are diagnosed annually.
“Cancer does not only affect the patient. One person affected by any form of cancer affects the whole community, a constituency and the entire nation. Therefore introduction of any additional effective, safe and scientifically sound tool that protects people from cancer is a good decision.” said Dr Rudi Eggers, WHO Country Representative for Kenya.
HPV is highly transmissible and infection is very common. Of the more than 100 types of HPV, at least 14 are cancer-causing, and two (types 16 and 18) are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. In developing countries like Kenya, where women often lack access to cancer screening and treatment services, immunising girls before exposure to HPV is critical. Safe and effective HPV vaccines can prevent up to 90 percent of all cervical cancer cases.