Cervical cancer vaccination scheme hit by vaccine shortage
Posted Monday, January 28 2013 at 14:59
The government launched the initiative to vaccinate up to 140,000 girls against cervical cancer in September last year after receiving funds from Merck, a global pharmaceutical and chemical company.
A pilot scheme to vaccinate girls against cervical cancer enters a third phase but many girls may be left out unless more dozes of the vaccine are made available, according to Ministry of health officials.
In some districts like Nebbi, the second dose of the vaccine which was supposed to be given in November was not even administered.
“I mobilised people for the first vaccination, the turnout was good now we have been waiting for the second dose but it has never arrived,” Ms Acayo Christine Cwinya-ai, the district woman MP said.
“My district has one of the highest numbers of cases of people with cervical cancer and no explanation has been given to me,” Ms Cwinya-ai said.
Although actual figures of numbers that missed are not available, the programme manager for non-communicable diseases prevention and control Dr Gerald Mutungi said that numbers turning up are overwhelming.
“We are overwhelmed. We are thin on the ground I don’t think we have enough capacity,” said Dr Mutungi in an interview.
He explained that the programme was facing many logistical challenges including few health personnel, delays to reach schools because of transport challenges and money to pay health workers.
In a district like Kamwenge, he said, they faced some resistance from some residents.
The government launched the initiative to vaccinate up to 140,000 girls against cervical cancer in September last year after receiving funds from Merck, a global pharmaceutical and chemical company. They said then that they had been given 460,000 doses of the HPV vaccine Gardasil.
The 12 pilot districts included Ibanda and Nakasongola districts. Later, Ntungamo, Rukungiri, Kamwenge, Mityana, Oyam, Lira, Nebbi, Katakwi, Bududa, Kayunga and Busia were brought on board.
Government is now planning to vaccinate all girls in primary four beginning next year if the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation approves their application.
“We are targeting girls between the age of 9 and 13 where chances of having the girl protected are high,”Dr Mutungi said.
Cancer of the cervix is caused by a virus called Human Papillomavirus which is sexually transmitted.