The country is set to introduce a new vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that is expected to reduce the number of women dying of cervical cancer.
Diane Mutamba, an official in the Ministry of Health, said that the vaccination is expected to begin next month, with girls in Primary six to be the first beneficiaries.
The vaccine, known as Gardasil, is manufactured by pharmaceutical company, Merck.
“Cervical cancer is the most common cancer killer among women in Rwanda. The incidence of cervical cancer in Rwanda is 49.4/100,000. WHO estimates that about two women die each day in Rwanda from the cancer,” Mutamba said.
The cervix is the lower part of the womb which connects to the vagina. It is also called the opening of the womb. Cervical cancer occurs when cells on the cervix grow out of control.
“Cervical cancer is not a genetic disease. All women who have ever had sex are at risk of contracting this type of cancer. Most girls usually get infected with HPV around the time they first have sex,” Mutamba said.
She added that, if untreated, cervical cancer can be fatal, causes great pain and suffering, and has significant negative effects on families and communities.
“Doctors recommend that girls get vaccinated when they are adolescents. In Rwanda, the vaccine will be given to girls in Primary six, and ideally, girls should get this vaccine before their first sexual contact.”
Mutamba said that the vaccine is safe and very effective. “It has been in use for almost five years and has been used by millions of girls in many countries, including in the United States, Canada and Australia.
At this time, we know the vaccine will provide protection for at least five years. Studies are ongoing,” she added.