The City of Johannesburg is to step up the rollout of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination among Grade 4 learners this year in a bid to reduce the cervical cancer mortality rate in the city.
According to Member of the Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development Clr Nonceba Molwele, cervical cancer is one the biggest contributory factors to the high mortality rate among women globally.
She says in South Africa each year more than 5 000 women develop cervical cancer. In the same period, more than 3 000 women die from the disease. The vaccine protects women against cervical cancer, which is caused by persistent infection.
“Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina,” says MMC Molwele.
According to Mary Daka, Deputy Director of Public Health in the City’s Health Department, cervical cancer can often be successfully treated when found early. It is usually detected at a very early stage through pap smear. Daka says the HPV vaccine is more effective in young girls, which is why they are the City’s target group for the vaccination. Girls of that age are not yet sexually active, she says, adding that sex is a contributor to cervical cancer.
“Starting from last year, we have targeted Grade 4 girl pupils, aged nine or older, in public and special schools. The vaccine is administered in two doses six months apart. It should never be administered to girls younger than nine,” she explains.
Daka says this is the first time that the government is offering young girls the opportunity to vaccinate against an infection that can cause the cancer of the mouth of the womb.
MMC Molwele says she hopes girls will, with the administration of the vaccine at such a young age, grow up to be healthy women and mothers “with a less complicated life".
According to Daka, the vaccine normally costs between R800 and R900 from a private practitioner. However, the one offered by her department is free as the cost is covered in the annual budget of the Gauteng Provincial Department of Health.