The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine will be introduced in the public health sector early next year, the Ministry of Health and Social Services has confirmed.
In response to questions by New Era, spokesperson of the health ministry, Ester Paulus, said the ministry would develop an introduction plan that would result in the vaccine being rolled out in “different stages”.
Currently the vaccine that is vital in preventing cervical cancer is only available through private doctors, following medical consultation.
A survey of various pharmacies in the capital indicate that the vaccine costs in the range of N$500 but has to be prescribed by a medical doctor.
Paulus explained that “part of the plan will be to conduct a pilot study, sensitise stakeholders and carry out training and capacity building for health workers before the vaccine is introduced in public health facilities.”
She further said the introduction of the vaccine is to prevent women “from contracting HPV that is responsible for cervical cancer”.
The Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN) this year in June said there has been a sharp rise in cervical cancer from 213 registered cases in 2010, to 292 new cases in 2014.
Cervical cancer is one of the most preventative forms of cancer worldwide, and can be prevented with effectiveness of up to 80 percent of the time through regular screening (Pap tests), committing to safe sexual practices especially and HPV injections, said the chief executive officer of CAN, Rolf Hansen.
This form of cancer is predominantly caused by HPV that is a sexually transmitted viral infection of which the male penis is the primary carrier, Hansen said in June.
“Early sexual activity, too early or too late pregnancies and birth in addition to medically difficult birthing also play a role in cervical cancer,” Hansen had said at the time.
“We will be targeting young girls who are not yet sexually active so that by the time they become active (sexually) they will be protected,” said Paulus. Therefore, vaccinations will start from preteenagers, Paulus added.
Dr Ndapewa Hamunime said women who are vaccinated against cervical cancer reduce the chance of contracting the disease by over 85 percent.
“The chances are really fewer in women who are vaccinated. Currently the vaccine is available in private (doctors’ consultations) but it’s expensive. It’s a good thing because many women will be covered,” explained Hamunime.