Girls to be immunised against cervical cancer

MASERU — The Ministry of Health will on Monday launch a national immunisation campaign against cancer of the cervix for girls between the ages of nine and 13.

Health Minister Mphu Ramatlapeng (pictured below) told a press conference on Monday that the government had allocated M15 million for the programme.

The first phase of the programme is expected to run from January 23 to 27 while the second phase will run from January 30 to February 4 across the country.

Ramatlapeng said a survey conducted in 2006 revealed that more women were suffering from cervical cancer.

Following that survey, the government then initiated pilot programmes in Leribe and Mohale’s Hoek for the immunisation programme.

Vaccination is administrated on girls who are not yet sexually active.

“It was learned that women contract the virus that causes cancer infection during their first sexual encounter,” Ramatlapeng said.

“Our purpose with this programme is to vaccinate young girls because symptoms are usually seen later when they enter womanhood.”

Ramatlapeng said the Ministry of Health was working together with that of education to ensure that all girls aged between  nine and 13 were vaccinated.

“It is our expectation that those children should be at school as the law provides. We therefore ask parents to always equip their children with their health booklets every time they go to school,” Ramatlapeng said.

She said those who were not in school should go to nearby schools to be included in the vaccination programme for free.

According to a health agency website, WebMD, cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus  (HPV).

One can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has it.

There are many types of the HPV virus but not all types cause cervical cancer.

Some of them cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms, WebMD says.

“One can have HPV for years and not know it. It stays in your body and can lead to cervical cancer years after you were infected,” it adds.

However regular tests can predict or tell if infection is there.

“A Pap test can find changes in cervical cells before they turn into cancer. If you treat these cell changes, you may prevent cervical cancer.”

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