The Gambia will now join several other African and European countries that have already introduced the vaccine in their mass immunisation system.
According to health officials, every year, cervical cancer causes hundreds of thousands of premature deaths among women in the sub-region including The Gambia and more than 80 percent of cervical cancer cases in The Gambia are detected in the late stages which is associated with very low survival rate.
Announcing the plans at a news conference attended by officials of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) of the Ministry of Health, EFSTH and UN partners, communication officer Saharu Kanteh, revealed that the campaign backed by First Lady Zineb Jammeh will begin this month and the second doses will be administered six months later.
Kanteh said two doses of HVP vaccine are enough to prevent the most virulent HPV infection which causes cervical cancer.
He said the new vaccine is safe and effective stressing that the HPV vaccine can protect against genital warts and anal or oral cancers. “These vaccines when given using the right dose, route and interval, the child is expected to be protected for life against those diseases. The EPI programme is so far vaccinating against 11 diseases.”
Kanteh, whose unit is implementing the programme said: “Introduction of new vaccines into the routine EPI services is not a burden rather it is an indication of success of an immunisation programme, an opportunity we all need to seize.”
Dr Patrick Idoko, head of obstetric and gynecology department at the EFSTH said 98 Gambian women have been diagnosed and 57 die every year.
“The cervix,” he said, “is the opening into the womb and the womb is the child-bearing organ in women.” He said the disease is preventable, detectable and treatable and that more than 95 percent of cases of cancer of the cervix are due to the infection with HPV, having multiple sexual partners, smoking and multiple pregnancies.
He said the symptoms of cervical cancer include abnormal virginal bleeding, longer and heavier mensuration, bleeding and pain during intercourse, fever, weight loss, vomiting, constipation and lack of appetite among others.
Dr Mustapha Bittaye, a gynecologist, said in order to aid the prevention of cervical cancer, people should change their sexual behaviours by adhering to abstinence, fidelity and being vaccinated against HVP.
He said the safety of the vaccine has been extensively studied while the side-effects are minimal like mild swelling at injection site.
Other speakers at the event included Mr Momodou Gassama from the Banjul WHO office, Kebba Gibba WHO EPI officer, Muhammed Saho, deputy director of health promotion and education and Omar Badjie, manager of non-communicable diseases.]]>