KIGALI - Rwanda recorded a 97 percent coverage in the just-concluded first phase of vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a virus that causes cervical cancer, the Ministry of Health announced.
The vaccine rollout programme which started in April, this year, targeted girls aged between 12 and 15.
The Coordinator of Maternal and Child Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Fidele Ngabo, said that 97 percent of all school-going girls in the targeted age group received the HPV vaccine while 45 percent of non-school going girls also benefittted.
It is estimated that only five percent of Rwandan girls in this target group do not go to school.
“This is a significant achievement that surpassed our targets by far. It is even greater news since we are planning phase two of this vaccination drive; so we encourage those young girls who missed out on the first round to visit any of the health centres countrywide,” Ngabo said.
For the vaccine to be effective, each girl must receive three doses and, according to Ngabo, the second phase of the vaccination is set to begin on July 19.
Cervical cancer, which is caused by certain types of HPV, is ranked by the World Health Organisation as the leading cause of cancer death among women in Rwanda.
Rwanda has a population of 2.72 million women aged 15 years and above who are at risk of developing cervical cancer. Cervical cancer ranks as the most prevalent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.
A United States drug maker, Merck, is supporting the vaccination drive with a donation of over two million doses of GARDASIL (HPV vaccines), while a German diagnostics firm, Qiagen, is set to provide 250,000 HPV screening tests and necessary equipment as part of the comprehensive programme that will help reduce the burden of the disease among women as well.
Merck’s donation to Rwanda is to be provided in three years. One shot dose of HPV vaccine costs US$130 and protects against HPV – a sexually transmitted virus that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.
As girls aged 12-15 get the HPV vaccine, women aged between 35-45 years are set to benefit from the 250,000 HPV screening Qiagen.
According to Dr. Ngabo, the Ministry of Health has started training medics who will conduct the screening.
So far, medical practitioners from Rwinkwavu, Butaro, Muhima, CHUK and King Faisal Kigali hospitals as well as Gitega Health Centre are undergoing the screening training.
The cervical cancer prevention campaign was launched by the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, with an aim of curbing mortality that results from cervical cancer.
The incidence of cervical cancer in Rwanda is 49.4/100,000.
The cervix is the lower part of the womb, which connects to the vagina, and is also called the opening of the womb. Cervical cancer occurs when cells on the cervix grow out of control.
Medics say that 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 sexual intercourse.