KAKUMIRO. The government of Uganda risks losing the fight against cervical cancer over low response to the countrywide immunisation exercise, an official has said.
Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is sexually-transmitted.
According to a 2016 report from the National Information Centre on HPV and cancer, Uganda’s cervical cancer prevalence rate stands at 33.6 per cent.
Mr Robert Kahaibare, the coordinator of the HPV immunisation programme in the Ministry of Health, said government rolled out a two-phase vaccination campaign in October 2015, targeting girls aged 10 years.
However, he said the target population has shunned the exercise.
“It has been discovered that 20 per cent of women with cancer are found to be suffering from that of the cervix. The young girls are not completing immunisation doses and this does not give them total protection against the virus,” said Mr Kahaibare.
“The immunisation is carried out in two phases where the first dose is given on the first contact and the second is administered after six months. We have, however, found out that girls are not completing the dose,” he added.
Low response in Kakumiro
Mr Kahaibare, who was on a sensitisation drive in Kakumiro on Tuesday, said the district is performing poorly in terms of responding to the campaign.
He explained that in 2016, 27 per cent of girls in the district got the first HPV1 dose and another 3 per cent got the second dose (HPV2). He added that in 2017, only 16.5 per cent of women in the district got the first dose and only 20.5 per cent the second one.
Last year, Mr Kahaibare said 52.6 per cent got the first dose and 23.9 per cent got the last dose.
“We have found out that Kakumiro has been performing poorly in this immunisation exercise. That is why we came for this meeting. May be it could be poor information flow or because the community has a misconception about the immunization campaign,” he added.
Mr Kahaibare said the government is now engaging all stakeholders, especially health workers and school administrators, to step up the immunisation campaign.
“We also want those ones out of the school to get immunised. That is why we have brought local leaders. Each head teacher is supposed to register all those children aged 10, inform the nearby health centre and make sure that they are all immunised,” he said.
The in-charge of Kakumiro Health Centre IV, Ms Mary Assumputa, said the findings from the ministry have put them in the worst position. The country’s response to immunisation against HPV stands at 41 percent.
“I want to urge all people to embrace cancer screening on a regular basis because about 99 per cent of people get to know that they have cancer infections after developing symptoms,” Ms Assumputa said.
Mr Jackson Kabagyire, a resident of Mukarere Village in Kisengwe Sub-county, who has three girls aged between nine and 13 years, said they have never been immunised because of inaccessibility to the services.
The Chief Administrative Officer, Mr Stephen Monday, said the only solution lies is stepping up efforts in the immunisation campaign.
“We will embrace the immunisation programme and we will at least be going to schools to immunise the girls,” Mr Monday said.
The District Health Officer, Dr Robert Senteza, admitted that people with children in the targeted age bracket are yet to appreciate the HPV immunisation campaign.
“But with concerted sensitisation efforts, we are optimistic the people will embrace the service for better protection and enhanced general public health,” he said.