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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

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