Joburg targets 30,000 schoolgirls for HPV vaccine drive

A doctor holds a vial of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil. The campaign to protect girls against cervical cancer is in full swing at public schools across the City of Johannesburg with trained and equipped health workers hard at work at 520 schools in all the seven regions to administer the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV1) vaccine to girl learners aged nine years. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

The vaccine has been used in more than 130 countries globally.

The campaign to protect girls against cervical cancer is in full swing at public schools across the city of Johannesburg.

Trained and equipped city health workers are hard at work visiting 520 schools in all the seven regions to administer the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV1) vaccine to female students aged around nine years.

The campaign aims to reduce the incidence of cancer of the cervix through the introduction of the vaccine before the girls are exposed to HPV infection.

The city’s health department plans to reach about 30,000 pupils during the campaign. The vaccine is administered in two doses. The first dose (HPV1) started on February 5 and will continue until March 15 2019.

The second dose (HPV2) will be given on August 6 and will continue until September 20 2019. To be vaccinated, learners need to produce consent forms signed by parents/guardians.

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the primary underlying cause of cervical cancer, which is transmitted through skin to skin contact and is a common virus infecting most people at some point in their lives. There are different types of HPV and some virus types can infect the cells that lead to cancer.

About 40 types of HPV are sexually transmitted through genital contact, while mostly two types (16 + 18) are considered to be high risk in South Africa. High-risk types are estimated to cause: 70% of cervical cancers; 50% of vaginal and vulvar cancers; and 20% of head and neck cancers.

The annual campaign started in 2014 in the city of Johannesburg and is done in partnership with the national department of health and the department of basic education.

The vaccine has been used in more than 130 countries globally.

Member of the mayoral committee councillor Mpho Phalatse said the city, through its health department, was committed to driving the campaign and other prevention programmes to ensure that girls were protected from cervical cancer.

Phalatse said the cases of teenage pregnancy that were seen within the city were a clear indication that girls were starting to have sex at a younger age, and not always safe sex.

“Given the fact that cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus, a sexually transmitted virus, and that the period just after a woman’s sexual debut is known to be the peak time for infection, it is extremely important that we immunise our girls against HPV before they even start having sex,” Phalatse said.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed worldwide in 2018. “We urge parents of Grade 4 girl children aged nine years and above to cooperate with us and give the necessary consent for their girls to receive this life-saving intervention.

“It would be a serious indictment on us as government and parents if even a single one of these young ones is one day diagnosed with this now perfectly preventable condition,” she said.

– African News Agency

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