Kenya is celebrated for introducing the HPV vaccine

Nairobi, Wednesday 13th November 2019  –  Kenya is among the three leading Countries in Africa with the highest number of cervical cancer deaths, the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) Board Chair Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Lweala has said.

Speaking today in Nairobi  during a high level dialogue on the future of the  HPV vaccine programme in Kenya, Dr. Ngozi noted that over 311, 000 women die from cervical cancer globally each year with  90 percent of them being  in middle income countries.

Twenty five (25) percent of these cases are in Africa which is around 72,000 deaths and three countries with the highest number of deaths are in Africa namely Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya, she noted.

“What this numbers mean is that there is need to focus a lot and give attention to the HPV vaccine. As a  cologne cancer survivor myself, any type of Cancer that has a vaccine and can be prevented, we should go for it. I went through three years of treatment and it is by God’s grace that l am sitting here and so l am a strong advocate for prevention,” Dr. Ngozi said.

She said the vaccine will not only save young girls, but will have an impact on the mothers who bring them for vaccination because it provides a platform for them to be educated on health issues such as nutrition and reproductive health.

GAVI works towards reduction of cost for vaccines for the countries and has an unique instrument called the advance market commitment which enables it to negotiate with  vaccine manufactures to lower the cost of vaccines

The demand for the vaccine is high, Dr. Ngozi said but despite the excitement about launching the vaccine, there is need to acknowledge challenges including critics who may not understand what the vaccine does, she advised.

“It is not about reproductive issues with girls , it is about saving lives, being able to communicate and say this vaccine has to do with preventing a death in future thus we must work together in all our countries as community advocates to send the message,” she said.

She also acknowledged that the biggest challenges of the HPV vaccine is supply and demand. “The continent demand of the vaccine could reach 80 million doses and we only have about 35 million available meaning there is a gap of about 45 million,” she said

Dr. Ngozi called on vaccine manufactures to step up the production to meet the demand that will created so that we don’t have a situation in which people are excited to get the vaccine amidst constant shortage.

GAVI, she noted is  ready and willing to  move on the vaccine and to support Kenya  and all other African countries to deliver on the HPV vaccine.

Speaking at the event the Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki highlighted that Kenya vaccine coverage has moved from 52 percent to 82 percent average in the last two years.

“These means that we have found immunization and vaccinating of our children to be worthwhile investment and our primary health care approach to delivering Universal Health Coverage (UHC) ,” she added.

She highlighted that since the National launch of the HPV vaccine in Kenya on 18th October 2019, 41 Counties out of  the 47 have now launched the vaccine in their health facilities and the remaining six Counties will launch by December .

“If we have managed to do 280,000 of the targeted 800,000 ages of 10 within a month its commendable because we have the political and County support. There have been disruptions because schools being closed, examinations being held, heavy rains and impassable roads but all of us are on course,” she assured.

She noted that the introduction of the Vaccine will not only stop families from sinking out of catastrophic expenditure due to cancer but it’s also an investment considering that about  30,000 Kenyans die every year because of the various cancers with breast and cervical cancer leading.

Henrietta Geiger, from the European Commission added that prevention is much less costly than treatment and argued that this is enough to sell the argument for the vaccine.

“With reduction of price, the roll out can be in a massive scale and I laud Kenyans for taking leadership role in doing it as a pilot initiative and taking risk which has succeeded despite the difficulties they have had ,“ she said .

Benda Kithaka,  Chair of  Women 4 Cancer said the civil society  supports the HPV vaccine as one of interventions that is available to Kenyan populace and are convinced that the vaccine is a tool towards elimination of Cancer.

“By combining screening with HPV vaccine, we will be protecting our girls now  and securing their future and as Civil society we still need to talk loudly to convince the dissenting voices and ensure our girls are protected ,“ she said.

The WHO Country Representative, Dr. Rudi Eggers said the HPV vaccine is one of the preventative measures that is almost magic.  You give a child two injections and that child is protected for at least 15 years and probably for life, he said.