North West Health kick starts first round of Human Papilloma Virus vaccine

North West Department of Health working in partnership with the Department of Education is embarking in a massive campaign to provide the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine among school-going girls who are nine years older and above.

Human Papilloma Viruses (HPVs) refers to a group of virus types and they are mainly transmitted through sexual contact.

As from tomorrow, Tuesday, 21 February, teams of health professionals will be visiting all public schools across the province to administer free HPV vaccination to girls in Grade four and who have already turned nine and older. First round of the campaign will run until the 28th of March 2017.

The purpose of this intervention is to implement one of the four basic components of cervical cancer control, namely primary prevention. The vaccination protects girls before they are sexually active from being infected by HPV and reduces the risk of developing HPV related cervical cancer later in life.

The vaccine was approved in South Africa in 2008; however it was only available through private outlets. The government started rolling out the vaccine for free later in 2014 to all grade 4 girl learners at all public schools through Integrated School Health Programme, (ISHP).

According to International Agency for Research on Cancer, cancer of the cervix is amongst the common cancers affecting women in sub-Saharan Africa. Compared to Europeans, women in Sub-Saharan Africa are five times more at risk. In South Africa cervical cancer is ranked as number 13 on the list of causes of deaths among females resulting in 67000 cases and 3498 annual deaths. In the North West Province for the women above the age of 45 years, it is among the first ten causes of death.

The morbidity and mortality figures reported above assert the need for the HPV vaccine at an early stage of life for women.

Key priority activities before actual implementation of the programme include community mobilisation, consultation with school community and ensuring that parents are informed to make healthy lifelong decisions for their children by providing accurate standardised messages about the vaccine.

MEC for Health in the province Dr Magome Masike said the success of an immunisation project such as this one is highly dependent on the parental acceptance of the vaccine as an effective life saving immunisation.

“It is important that we protect our children, future women of South Africa against cervical cancer. The focus here is prevention and promotion rather than curative. I am therefore appealing to all communities to inform parents, guardians and extended families of these young girls that the vaccination is available and is free. Parents need to ensure that they have signed and return the consent forms which they will receive from the school that their child attends. No girl will be vaccinated without parental consent,” concluded MEC Masike.

For the adequate lifetime protection against cervical cancer to be achieved, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that a minimum of two doses should be administered with a six months interval between doses before a girl is sexually active.

The department of health in the province has been conducting the campaign twice in a year giving 1st and 2nd doses of HPV vaccine since the year 2014.

Source: Government of South Africa