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Govt seeks to vaccinate 700,000 young girls in campaign against cervical cancer

Sarah Achieng Opendi, State Minister for Health said most parents spread false news that HPV vaccine is meant to stop young children from giving birth. (PHOTO/FILE)

KAMPALA – The Ministry of Health has rolled out a countrywide exercise that seeks to vaccinate 700,000 girls aged 10 years against cervical cancer this year.

Dr Alfred Driwale, the program manager for the Uganda National Expanded Program on Immunization, (UNEPI), said they want to administer the girls with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine which helps stop cervical cancer.

He said the campaign will be taken to schools and health centers.

“Our target this year is at least our 700,000 children to be vaccinated with HPV. And also next year this number will change so for our members of parliament who are here the allocation of vaccines if they are static , then we are starting with a problem, so these are budgets which should be seen growing annually,” Dr Driwale said on Wednesday.

He said each girl will get two doses within 6 months.

However, Dr Driwale said a number of girls turn up for the first dose but do not come back for the second dose urged health officials to register all 10-year-old girls in primary schools and their vaccination status tracked.

“The immunisation act of 2017 makes vaccination of children and target groups in this country compulsory. The burden to ensure that these children are vaccinated equally rests on parents and schools,” he added.

According to the data available at Ministry of health, in 2017, 85 per cent of the girls turned up for the first dose but only 41 per cent turned out for the second dose whereas in 2018 107 per cent girls turned for the first dose but 47 per cent turned up for the second dose.

Ms. Sarah Opendi the State Minister of health in charge of General duties condemned parents who spread false news that HPV vaccine is meant to stop young children from giving birth.

“There has been some propaganda that the HPV vaccine is meant to stop children from giving birth but this is false, cervical cancer is real and is high in our country. Therefore the religious leaders and all the local leaders should join the ministry in educating the citizens,” Ms. Opendi said.

She tasked the Uganda Cancer Institute to be able to make available the HPV vaccine for older women and boys in the country.

“Men do not have the uterus to get cervical cancer but they carry the virus and that’s why I have directed the Uganda Cancer Institute to bring the vaccine for the boys and older women. Science indicates that there is a drug which can be brought into the country. It might come with a cost but it’s better,” Ms Opendi said.

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