Kenya’s HPV Vaccinations Raise Hope of less Cervical Cancer

The World Health Organization says East Africa has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world.  In October, Kenya launched a mass vaccination of girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer.  The vaccine is being welcomed by HPV patients, who hope their children will be protected better than they were.Thirty-year-old Jacinta Agunja tested positive in 2016 for one of the human papillomaviruses (HPV) that leads to cervical cancer.After two years of intensive and expensive treatment, she was free of HPV and did not get cancer.  At least seven women die every day in Kenya from cervical cancer, according to the Ministry of Health.The ministry says the HPV vaccine could cut the rate of cervical cancer by up to 70 percent.Cicily Kariuki is Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for health.”We have managed to distribute the vaccine to 47 counties, in all of the public facilities,” said Kariuki. “We have covered an upward of up to 300,000 girls to date.  The target continues because our target is 800,000 girls.”At least 115 countries have made the HPV vaccine routine, including some in East Africa.Rwanda first introduced the vaccine in 2006, followed by Uganda in 2015 and Tanzania in 2018.  While Kenya normally leads development in the region, its efforts in preventing cervical cancer are seen by many – including Agunja – as better late than never. 

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