The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the use of a single human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine dose, saying, it’s highly effective in preventing the virus that causes cervical cancer.
The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation says, the single-dose vaccine is just as good as the two-dose schedule.
“This could be a game-changer for the prevention of the disease; seeing more doses of the life-saving jab reach more girls,” reads a statement by WHO.
According to WHO, most sexually active women and men will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives and some will be repeatedly infected. The peak time for acquiring infection among both genders is shortly after becoming sexually active.
While nine out of 10 HPV infections go away by themselves in two years, others lead to cancer of the reproductive system, mainly cervical cancer.
HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and oropharyngeal (throat, tongue, and tonsils) cancer.
Second most frequent cancer
“This decision opens up a whole range of possibilities. For one thing, with global supply traditionally constrained due to high demand among wealthier countries, we will now be able to make the same volume of doses — and the same investment — go twice as far. This could potentially save twice the number of lives,” Ms Anuradha Gupta, deputy CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, explained.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer 2021 report estimates that Kenya has a population of 16.2 million women aged 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.
Current estimates indicate that every year, 5,236 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,211 die from the disease. Cervical cancer ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women in Kenya as well as the second most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.
Yet, according to data from WHO in the country, only one in 10 girls in the primary vaccination target cohort in 2020 have received their final HPV dose.
The HPV vaccination programme was introduced in Kenya in 2019, targeting around 800,000 girls.