Western Cape schoolgirls get HPV vaccine

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More than 32,000 Grade 4 girls received the first of two doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine during round one of this year’s campaign in the province. According to a Cape Times report, the Western Cape Health Department confirmed that 32,870 nine-year-old girls, and older, have received the vacccine. This covers 78% of the girls at 1,007 schools.

The remaining percentage can still receive their vaccination, by presenting a signed consent form. Those girls will receive their first dose of the vaccine during round two, and their second dose during round 1 of next year. Consent forms are available at the schools.

HPV-related cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer, responsible for the death of one in every eight women in South Africa, the department says.
There are 52 strains of the virus. The two that cause cervical cancer are HPV types 16 and 18. The HPV immunisation protects against contracting these viruses, working in the same manner that any of the other immunisations, given from birth up until 12 years of age, work.

Hennie Botha, head of the gynaecological oncology unit at Tygerberg Hospital and Stellenbosch University said in the report: “We need to recognise that HPV-associated cancer is a huge problem is South Africa. We have high rates of cervical cancer leading to a high number of preventable deaths.”

He said children should be vaccinated before reaching puberty, preferably between the age of nine and 12. “The vaccine is very efficient and completely safe. I encourage parents to support the programme,” he said.

The report says because HPV and other childhood vaccinations are administered to young people, the side effects are minimal, or as in most cases, completely absent, and their bodies absorb the immunisation (serum) better. This offers improved protection from the illness, said the department.

Full Cape Times report

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