Fiona Ruzha, H-Metro Reporter
THE Ministry of Health and Child Care has vowed to step up human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccines as the burden of adolescent girls who indulge in sexual activities continues to soar.
In 2018, the country joined an increasing number of African nations in taking a vital step against a common cause of death among women by introducing the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer into its routine immunisation schedule.
However, the growing number of adolescents who indulge in sexual activities in recent years has been a cause for concern as most of them acquire the sexually transmitted HPV during the act.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the human papilloma virus causes cervical cancer which is killing a thousand of women in the country every year.
Last week, this publication gathered that the birth rate for those who have achieved primary education was eight times higher than those with higher education with primary education having recorded 175 births per 1000 while higher education has 21 births per 1000.
Speaking to H-Metro, Family Health Director in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Bernard Madzima said efforts are underway to ensure that the programme of HPV vaccination still goes on as it is the way to combat cervical cancer.
“The Ministry has started the HPV vaccination programme for young girls from the ages 10 to 14 because the assumption is that at this age they are not sexually active.
“HPV which is sexually transmitted causes cervical cancer and the girls who indulge in sex at an early age are more vulnerable to HPV infection hence the vaccination has to be done early before their sexual debut,” he said.
Dr Madzima also mentioned that the impact of the vaccination is seen after a very long period of time.
“Two vaccinations are needed six months apart and the results will not be visible as early as next year but maybe in twenty years or because that’s when the impact of the vaccination program will then be felt.
“It’s a long term program and the Ministry takes cognisance that young girls are sexually active so we are targeting the Grade 5 girls.
“And in other countries, they vaccinate boys but for now because of resources we are targeting only young girls,” he said.
According to WHO, Zimbabwe has an estimated 4.9 million women aged 15 years and older at risk of developing cervical cancer.
WHO added that cervical cancer is on track to overtake childbirth as the developing world’s biggest killer of women. It takes the lives of 266,000 women every year and this number is rising, with projections suggesting this figure could hit 416,000 by 2035 if not addressed.
It disproportionately affects the world’s poorest countries, with low and middle income countries accounting for 85 percent of all deaths. The five countries with the highest incidence of cervical cancer are all in sub-Saharan Africa – Malawi, Mozambique, Comoroswbbbbbii, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
And of late, the First Lady Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa has been conducting cancer awareness campaigns across the country which have seen over 100 000 women undergoing cervical cancer screening in 2018.
Her initiative came upon the realisation that vast majority of cervical cancer deaths were now preventable through safe and effective HPV vaccines.