The Ministry of Health has launched a fresh vaccination campaign that targets children and adolescents throughout the country.
Launched yesterday in Nyanza District, Southern Province, the Child and Adolescent Health Week will see the ministry roll out the vaccination against cervical cancer and the provision of mebendazole to infants (aged between 1 and 15) to protect them against intestinal worms.
It is the third year that the vaccination against cervical cancer is being rolled out across the country. Since 2011, the campaign has targeted girls aged between 11 and 15.
Cervical cancer, which is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is ranked as the leading cause of deaths among women in the country, according to the World Health Organisation.
The disease also ranks as the most prevalent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.
Other activities to be carried out as part of the Child and Adolescent Health Week include community sensitisation on hygiene and sanitation, balanced diet and the use of mosquito nets, among others, according to Maurice Gatera, the Head of Vaccine preventable diseases division at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC).
While officiating at the launch, the Minister for Health Dr Agnes Binagwaho said the campaign aims at kicking the disease out of society.
She added that the target is to reach as many school-going girls as possible, with the help of local leaders, health officials and community health volunteers.
She projected the coverage at over 90 per cent in the targeted age group.
It is estimated that 95 per cent of Rwandan girls in the target group go to school, according to the minister.
Community health workers will help identify non-school going girls for them to get the vaccine, Binagwaho said.
For the vaccine to be effective, each girl must receive three doses.
“If we manage to immunise all our girls, we can mitigate the [cervical] cancer almost by 91 per cent,” Binagwaho said, noting that “young girls who receive the three injections [of the vaccine] are protected more than 90 per cent against the cancer which is one of the most killer diseases of women.”
“This means that Rwanda can be the first country in the world to mitigate fully cancers among women.”
Minister Binagwaho appealed to girls to turn up massively for vaccination and urged parents to encourage their young daughters to embrace the campaign.