News / Health

Zambia Launches HPV Vaccination Program

Girls wear matching raincoats as they wait along a roadside during a rain shower in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, (File photo).
Girls wear matching raincoats as they wait along a roadside during a rain shower in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, (File photo).
Zambia has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in the world, with 90 out of every 100,000 women contracting the preventable disease.  The government is now rolling out a program to vaccinate school girls against the Human Papilloma Virus - which causes cervical cancer.  The Lusaka program is being quickly hailed as an early success.
 
Children attending a fourth-grade class at any primary school learned the country is Africa’s largest copper producer.  But none have been taught the country tops the list of nations in the world with a high rate of cancer of the cervix.
 
Zambia is looking to change that by immunizing girls between the ages of 9 - 11 against the Human Papilloma Virus,  which is the main cause of cervical cancer.  The key is to vaccinate girls before they are sexually active, since that is how HPV is transmitted.
 
Roll-out

Zambia began rolling out the vaccination program in May at selected primary schools around the country.
 
Kalingalinga Primary School in the capital Lusaka is one of them, and here about 100 pre-teen girls have so far received the HPV vaccine.
 
Euphrasia Mweshi Mutale is a teacher and one of the people involved in sensitizing the community about what was expected to be a sensitive subject.  She said she is happy with the results so far.

"In the first place we went for sensitization meeting with parents from the community and some teachers.  We were sensitized on the goodness of the HPV vaccine.  The response is quite overwhelming," she explained. "Almost 100 percent of the girls have been vaccinated.”
 
Mutale also attributes the initial success to the fact there have been no immediate reported side effects from the vaccine, such as a high fever or skin rash.
 
Hurdles

The co-director of the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia, Dr. Mulindi Mwanahamuntu, said health authorities, working with co-operating partners, undertook to vaccinate 25,000 girls in the first phase.

“In the schools that were selected, so far we have vaccinated 96 percent of the intended target.  Now that is a very good response," Mwanahamuntu said.
 
But the doctor noted the program will have to overcome some pockets of hesitancy to be fully effective.
 
“We still have resistance; we still have people that believe in myths.  Now there are groups, I do not want to stigmatize groups, but there are groups of people, for example certain churches, that try to resist this.  But also, there are cultural norms.  The very fact that it is given to the pre-sexual years it would indicate to others that we are permitting children therefore to go out and have sex,” Mulindi said.
 
Outreach

In an effort to combat misinformation, Zambian and international health officials are reaching out to communities in various ways.
 
U.N. physician and cancer activist Dr. Pelum-Hazeley, who hosts a regular local radio phone-in program called Celebrating Life, said she aims to educate her callers on the real benefits and potential side effects so they can make the right medical decisions for their children.
 
“We just have to continue educating the people because if someone has had a complication, and of course there are reasons why there are complications.  It does not necessarily mean the same thing is going to happen here," Pelum-Hazeley explained. "Because I am a cancer activist and I believe, my intention, my aim is to help the people as much as possible to be educated and my emphasis is on prevention.”
 
The World Health Organization ranks Zambia as having the third highest mortality rate from cervical cancer and ranks highest in Africa.  It strikes down women in their prime of life and yet it is an entirely preventable disease.
 
That is why Dr. Pelum-Hazeley and other health activists are working hard to make sure the HPV vaccination program is a success in Zambia.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More