Eastern Cape government ramps up cervical cancer vaccination campaign

In the UK, about 3 000 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it is estimated about 400 lives could be saved every year by vaccinating girls before they are infected.

In the UK, about 3 000 women a year are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and it is estimated about 400 lives could be saved every year by vaccinating girls before they are infected.

Published Feb 17, 2024


The government of the Eastern Cape has initiated a comprehensive fight against cervical cancer.

The department of health, under the leadership of its MEC, Nomakhosazana Meth, extended its vaccination against cervical cancer to more than 100 000 young girls and women in the province.

Provincial spokesperson for the department, Mkhululi Ndamase, said the main focus of the campaign is on the Human papillomavirus (HPV), a precursor to cervical cancer in later stages. The campaign which began over 10 years ago is gaining momentum and continues until end of March 2024.

“This is a national campaign that started in 2014. It has been happening yearly in February and March which is the first dose and between September and October the second dose. The campaign started on February 6 and will run until March 20th. However, from this year, the campaign will be one dose,” Ndamase told Independent Media this week.

Dr Ntombi Sigwebela, Regional Director of FIND, a global non-profit organisation which connects countries and communities, funders, decision-makers, healthcare providers and developers reveals that cervical cancer kills at least one woman across the globe every two minutes.

“Significantly, this is a cancer that is both preventable and curable if detected early. Like so many diseases, cervical cancer is a disease of inequity. Women living in poverty, in lower-income countries or living with HIV are disproportionally affected,” Dr Sigwebela says.

Dr Sigwebela says in the continent of Africa, cervical cancer mortality rates are a harrowing as they are 18 times higher than in the rest of the world.

Sigwebela adds that the Cancer Association of South Africa’s(CANSA) numbers are also harrowing. They indicate that more than 22.2 million women aged 15 and older are at risk of cervical cancer with an average of 10 702 women who are affected annually, resulting in 5 870 fatalities.

“This equates to between 23 and 27 women (per 100 000) exposed to cervical cancer compared to the global average of 16. Women living with HIV, on average, have a six-fold higher risk of developing cervical cancer than women who are not living with HIV,’ she says.

Having rolled out the campaign over time, Ndamase reveals that both parents and young women in general, have been receptive to the campaign adding that the vaccine is able to save lives and make a meaningful contribution to the lives of young women, especially in rural areas.

“We must say the response from parents has been great as they have been signing consent forms — which gives the department permission to administer this life-saving vaccine.

“The HPV vaccine helps prevent girls from developing cervical cancer later in life. Through this campaign, the department is ensuring that young girls do not become part of the statistics of those who lose their lives as a result of cancer.This is a preventative measure as it is cheaper and better to prevent than to treat cancer or any illness,” he said.

After administering the vaccine to more than 100 000 young women with a team of health professionals who have been to communities, schools and rural towns to ensure that the campaign reaches as many as possible young women from the ages of aged nine years and older.

“Our dedicated and hard-working teams which are led by professional nurses are travelling the length and of the province, going to schools, where they administer the HPV vaccine.

Last year, the department gave 111 379 young girls the life-saving vaccine. During the 2023 first dose given between February to March, the department administered HPV vaccine to 55 123 Grade 5 learners. Between September and October last year, 56 256 young girls received their second HPV vaccine. We are confident that once again this year will be a great success,“ he said.

Saturday Star

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