The Kenyan Ministry of Health is set to rollout a cervical cancer vaccine targeting 10-year-old girls starting Friday, in a move that will see the shot included in the national immunisation routine.
The ministry has set aside Ksh800 million ($8 million) to drive the roll-out over the next one year and targets to give the free vaccine against the cancer-causing human papilloma virus (HPV) to about 800,000 girls.
Two doses of the HPV vaccine will be given to the girls six months apart, at about 9,000 public, private and faith-based facilities countrywide.
The ministry is rolling it out the immunisation plan closely with the Ministry of Education and in collaboration with development partners that include the vaccine alliance Gavi, Unicef and World Health Organization (WHO).
“There are about 27,000 reported cancer deaths every year in Kenya...these are statistics that should make anyone freeze. Cervical cancer is preventable through vaccination and our children should not miss out on this chance,” Health Cabinet Secretary, Cecily Kariuki told journalists on Wednesday in Nairobi.
“Starting this Friday we will start the routine roll-out of the cervical cancer vaccine and the country is ready with 1.3 million doses for the current year against the 800,000 target. We will give out two doses for maximum protection,” said Ms Kariuki.
The vaccine roll-out comes months after several aborted launches and seven years after Kenya agreed to make available the free HPV vaccine in the country.
A section of doctors affiliated to the Catholic Church had raised the alarm over safety of the vaccine, citing a myriad of health complications.
The health ministry, however, says it has so far engaged various religious bodies to demystify the concerns.
“We did not notice any side effects from the pilot programme carried out in Kitui in 2014/2015. WHO can confirm that this vaccine is safe and effective and reiterate our support for Kenya as it rolls out this life-saving vaccine ,” said Dr Phionah Atuhebwe, African Regional New Vaccines Introduction Officer.
Cervical cancer is the second-most prevalent cancer amongst women in Kenya after breast cancer but it claims more lives as most cases are detected at advanced stages. Cancer is the third-leading cause of death in Kenya after infectious and cardiovascular diseases.