This week, 14th to 18th May 2018, Zimbabwe becomes the 8th African country to introduce Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into its routine immunisation programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The HPV vaccine is a World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended intervention to prevent infection with two types of human papillomavirus known to lead to about 70% of cervical cancers.
Cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer in women with 99% of the cases associated with HPV infection. Every year, 530, 000 new cases are diagnosed with each year claiming 275, 000 lives. Over 85% of the cervical cancer cases occur in developing countries. By 2050, cervical cancer cases will amount to 1 million, out of which 900, 000 will be in developing countries. Globally, the incidence of cervical cancer is at 15/100 000 women, and is currently at 35/100 000 in Zimbabwe. Annually, 2 270 new cases of cervical cancer are recorded in Zimbabwe with 1 541 associated deaths.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended target group for vaccination are 9 – 14 year old girls who have not yet become sexually active. In 2014 – 2015, Zimbabwe piloted the HPV vaccine in 3 districts with great success. This national scale up is targeting girls aged 10 – 14 and will subsequently be vaccinating girls in Grade 5 in or out of school from May, 2019. Vaccinations will take place at schools, hospitals and clinics countrywide. Girls, who will have missed the vaccination during the campaign, can get vaccinated at clinics until 18 June, 2018. About 888,826 girls are to be reached by the end of May 2018.
The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective vaccine that presents exciting opportunities for public health in the longer term. High HPV vaccine coverage will reduce the economic and human costs of cervical cancer in the long term. The benefits of the vaccine are realized years after the young girls have been vaccinated.
“The government of Zimbabwe has invested in the HPV vaccine for the good health of our women. Let’s do our part in preventing vaccine preventable diseases by getting all eligible girls vaccinated,” UNICEF said.