Saturday February 29, 2020

HPV Vaccinations may Reduce Cervical Cancer Rate in Kenya

Kenya's HPV Vaccinations Raise Hope of Less Cervical Cancer

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Cervical Cancer
A study of hospital records shows three-quarters of young women chose not to get the HPV vaccine which can prevent cervical cancer. VOA

By Rael Ombuor

The World Health Organization says East Africa has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the world.  In October, Kenya launched a mass vaccination of girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer.  The vaccine is being welcomed by HPV patients, who hope their children will be protected better than they were.

Thirty-year-old Jacinta Agunja tested positive in 2016 for one of the human papillomaviruses (HPV) that leads to cervical cancer.

After two years of intensive and expensive treatment, she was free of HPV and did not get cancer.

Agunja hopes Kenya’s mass vaccination of girls, launched in October, will prevent her 10-year-old daughter from also getting the virus.

“That vaccine, I need it to help my daughter and other women who are not sexually active now,” said Agunja. “When they become sexually active, they will be already protected so that they cannot go through what I went through, because women in informal settlement(s) cannot afford that much.”

Kenya is offering the free HPV vaccine as part of the county’s routine immunization schedule to 10-year-old girls.

Doctors say the vaccine program is a major milestone in the fight against cervical cancer in East Africa, which has the highest rate in the world.

Dr. Catherine Nyongesa is the director of the Texas Cancer Center, a private hospital started in 2010 to offer specialized cancer treatment.

Cervical Cancer
In October, Kenya launched a mass vaccination of girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cervical cancer. Pixabay

“Parents are encouraged to take their children for vaccination but, all the same, vaccination does not give one the guarantee that you will not get the cancer,” said Nyongesa. “But studies in developed countries have shown that actually the rate of cervical cancer goes down with planned, proper immunization.”

At least seven women die every day in Kenya from cervical cancer, according to the Ministry of Health.

The ministry says the HPV vaccine could cut the rate of cervical cancer by up to 70 percent.

Cicily Kariuki is Kenya’s Cabinet secretary for health.

“We have managed to distribute the vaccine to 47 counties, in all of the public facilities,” said Kariuki. “We have covered an upward of up to 300,000 girls to date.  The target continues because our target is 800,000 girls.”

At least 115 countries have made the HPV vaccine routine, including some in East Africa.

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Rwanda first introduced the vaccine in 2006, followed by Uganda in 2015 and Tanzania in 2018.

While Kenya normally leads development in the region, its efforts in preventing cervical cancer are seen by many – including Agunja – as better late than never. (VOA)

Next Story

People Receive Misinformation Regarding Vaccines on Social Media, Says Study

Low levels of trust in medical experts coincide with believing vaccine misinformation

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Vaccine
Such a high level of misinformation is "worrying" because misinformation undermines vaccination rates, and high vaccination rates are required to maintain community immunity. Pixabay

Researchers have found that people who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media.

The study, based on nationally representative surveys of nearly 2,500 US adults, found that up to 20 per cent of respondents were at least somewhat misinformed about vaccines.

Such a high level of misinformation is “worrying” because misinformation undermines vaccination rates, and high vaccination rates are required to maintain community immunity, the researchers said.

“People who received their information from traditional media were less likely to endorse anti-common vaccination claims,” said study lead author Dominik Stecula from University of Pennsylvania in the US. The findings, published in the Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, was conducted in the spring and fall of 2019, when the US experienced its largest measles outbreak in a quarter century.

Between the two survey periods, 19 per cent of the respondents’ levels of vaccine misinformation changed in a substantive way – and within that group, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) were more misinformed in the fall than in the spring.

The researchers found that 18 per cent of respondents mistakenly said that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that vaccines cause autism; 15 per cent mistakenly agreed that it is very or somewhat accurate to state that vaccines are full of toxins.

The researchers also found that an individual’s level of trust in medical experts affects the likelihood that a person’s beliefs about vaccination will change.

Social Media
Researchers have found that people who rely on social media for information were more likely to be misinformed about vaccines than those who rely on traditional media. Pixabay

Low levels of trust in medical experts coincide with believing vaccine misinformation, the researchers said.

The findings come as a number of states have been debating whether to tighten their laws surrounding vaccination exemptions and social media companies have been wrestling with how to respond to different forms of misinformation.

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The result is consistent with research suggesting that social media contain a fair amount of misinformation about vaccination while traditional media are more likely to reflect the scientific consensus on its benefits and safety, according to the researchers. (IANS)