Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer death among women in low- and lower-middle-income countries. More than a half-million new cases and 266,000 deaths occur annually, with most of the deaths occurring in these countries.
“We saw nurses coming at our school, our health teacher announced that girls aged between 13 and 14 years should gather in one of the classes; we were first educated on various health issues including the importance of being vaccinated for cervical cancer before the nurses administered the vaccine. Back home, my parents were also happy about the news,” said Annah Ribona, a Form Four student at Vwawa secondary school in Mbeya.
Ribona added: “I don’t want to die of cervical cancer; I want to live long so that I can accomplish my life dreams.”
Another student from the school, Shukrani Mbwire (Form Four) thanked Jhpiego Tanzania for supporting the nation’s HPV vaccination campaign in their region because apart from being protected from cervical cancer, they are also benefitting with other integrated services such as eye testing, reproductive health and nutrition education.
Jhpiego is implementing the project in collaboration with the government through the President's Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG) and the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elders and Children with funding from UNICEF Tanzania.
Mbwire called upon other teenage girls who have not received the vaccine to ensure they do so for the betterment of their health.
“The vaccine is good because I couldn’t develop any side effects after receiving the jabs; I got both the first and second dose,” she added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends two doses of HPV vaccine for girls aged 9 to 14 years, and three doses for girls aged 15 years and older and those who are immune compromised or HIV positive.
A Public Health Nurse at Mbozi district hospital, Beatrice Msukwa told the Guardian that most of the people are now aware of the vaccines as they normally conduct public education to both the community and students before administering the jabs.
“In our outreach programmes, we visit villages and schools to educate them on cervical cancer and the need to protect girls by ensuring they receive the vaccines,” said Msukwa, adding there are 188 primary schools and 63 secondary schools in the district.
Veronica Luwumba is a nurse-midwife at Ruanda health center in Mbeya city council, she said the target this year aw to vaccinate 460 girls, but they have so a total of 472 school girls have received the first dose between January and June this year. She said plans are to provide the second dose in August, 2021.
“Of the number, there are two girls who are HIV positive. One of them was traced through our HIV care and treatment clinics (CTC),” she noted.
According to her, the HPV+ programme under Jhpiego has improved their skills because previously, when the vaccination exercise was introduced in the country in 2018, they were just administering it without providing education and other integrated health services to eligible girls.
“We went through capacity building trainings; we have also outlined plans for continuation of the vaccination exercise even after
A health teacher at Chalangwa primary school, Nuru Mwatujobe said: “We prefer vaccinating the girls at school because we can also reach a good number of them at once.”
The teacher added that apart from the teenage girls, parents are also happy with the vaccines as they all want their children to be protected from cervical cancer. She said this year (January-May) they have provided the first dose of HPV to 11 girls, whereas in 2020 they successfully vaccinated 11 girls with the first and second dose.
Chunya District Immunization and Vaccination Officer (DIVO), Moses Katamba commended the residents for a good cooperation as most of the parents have been supporting them in identifying as well as ensuring that eligible girls receive the jabs.
Katamba added in 2020, they administered the first dose to 1,800 girls, but only 970 of them were vaccinated for the second dose. He said that this year (January – May) they provided the first dose to 1,450 girls while only 700 girls received the jabs for the second dose.
The target this year is to vaccinate 1,796 girls, he added.
In April 2018, Tanzania launched the HPV Vaccine following the success of jab in the pilot phase in Kilimanjaro Region.