By Francis Kagolo
As Uganda commemorates the African Vaccination Week this week, the ministry of health has announced plans to roll out mass cervical cancer and diarrhoea vaccination next year.
The ministry spokesoperson Rukia Nakamatte said a countrywide mass cervical cancer vaccination will start early 2015 after a pilot phase conducted in 14 districts ended in December last year.
“We expected to embark on this project this year but we have been concentrating on the pneumococcal vaccine which is being rolled out across the country. Besides, there are facilities we need to put in place first,” Nakamatte said.
Cervical cancer is the commonest cancer among women in Uganda and accounts for over 80% of female cases.
The human papillomavirus (HPV), the main cause of cervical cancer, is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.
It is estimated that at least 2,464 women dies in Uganda from cervical cancer annually. Over 3,577 more are diagnosed with the disease that has become Uganda’s leading killer cancer of women.
Health experts contend that at least half of sexually active people will have HPV at some point in their lives.
Nakamatte said that the expected cervical cancer vaccination will target girls aged between 9 and 14 years.
She was briefing New Vision about preparations for the African Vaccination Week which presents an opportunity to create awareness, demand for immunization and enlighten the contribution of immunization to saving lives and promoting a healthy population.
“Immunization is the most cost effective mechanism to curb morbidity and mortality,” Nakamatte explained.
Activities to commemorate the week include community sensitization, outreach programs, and Child Health Days among others.
Health minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda asked the public to take advantage of the week and take their children for immunization during the outreach programs across the country.
He said the activities will scale up efforts to reach every child and strengthen monitoring of vaccine-preventable diseases.
Under the Uganda national expanded immunization programme, every child should be fully immunized before the first birth day.
Children are immunized against the following Tuberculosis, Polio, Pneumonia, Meningitis Tetanus, Measles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria and Hepatitis B.
Preparations to roll out the Rota Virus that protects children against diarrhoeal diseases will also start in 2015, although mass vaccination of children against the virus will start in 2016.
Rota Virus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children worldwide. The virus causes severe diarrhoea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In babies and young children, it can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids).
Globally, it causes more than a half a million deaths each year in children younger than 5 years of age, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).