Cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in Kenya after breast cancer, claims about nine women in Kenya every day. According to statistics from the Health Ministry, there are about 40,000 new cervical cancer cases annually.
To fight the disease, World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends vaccination of all girls and screening, at least once every year, for older women to reduce cancer risk, and the vaccine is most effective when administered between the ages of nine and 14.
Ministry of Health recently rolled out the HPV vaccines to reduce cases of cancer of the cervix through immunization which primarily targets girls aged 9 to 14 years, prior to becoming sexually active and secondarily, to target girls aged 15 and above, in accordance to the WHO standards.
However, some women politicians said that by targeting only young girls, the Health Ministry was discriminating against the rest of the population who also need the vaccine.
“There are many poor women who cannot afford the Sh4,000 for screening. So why lock them out from receiving this vaccine and even have access to screening,” questioned Nandi MP Dr. Tecla Tum during a sensitization forum for Members of Parliament.
In their defense the Ministry argued that it is complying with the set standards by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which recommends vaccination of all girls and screening, at least once every year, for older women to reduce cancer risk, and the vaccine is most effective when administered between the ages of nine and 14 and the global shortage of the vaccine supply, made them prioritize the young girls.
HPV vaccines do not prevent all forms of cervical cancer, and as such, it does not replace the need for cervical cancer screening. Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium (KANCO), a regional membership network of non-governmental organizations recently met with women MPs in preparation for the HPV national launch set for the end of the month, in their bid to fight this cancer menace.