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).
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid