Kenya, Malawi lead in cervical cancer deaths, expert reveals
Kenya is one of the three countries in Africa with the highest number of cervical cancer deaths, the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) board chair Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Lweala has said.
She said more than 311,000 women die of cervical cancer globally every year with 90 per cent of the deaths in middle-income countries.
“Twenty-five percent of these cases are in Africa which is around 72,000 deaths and the three countries with the highest number of deaths in Africa are Zimbabwe, Malawi and Kenya,” she said.
Speaking in Nairobi on Wednesday during a discussion on the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine programme, Okonjo-Lweala said there was need to focus more attention on the vaccine.
“As a colon cancer survivor myself, any type of cancer that has a vaccine and can be prevented, I propose we go for it. I went through three years of treatment and it is by God’s grace that I am sitting here, so I am a strong advocate for prevention,” she said.
She said the HPV vaccine would save the lives of many young women.
She said there was need to educate critics of the vaccine on its objectives.
“It is not about reproductive issues with girls, it is about saving lives. This vaccine has to do with preventing deaths in future thus we must work together to send that message,” she added.
Okonjo-Lweala said Gavi was working towards a reduction of costs for vaccines in developing countries.
“For HPV for instance, in a case where it would cost 100 dollars in the US, we can bring it down to about 4.50 dollars to make it affordable for our countries,” she said.
She, however, noted that the biggest challenge of the vaccine would be the supply and demand.
“Africa’s demand of the vaccine could reach 80 million doses and there are only about 35 million available meaning there is a deficit of about 45 million,” she said.
Ngozi encouraged vaccine manufacturers to step up production to avoid shortages.
Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said some 280,000 girls had received the vaccine in the past one month.
“If we have managed to do 280,000 of the targeted 800,000 girls in the ages of 10 years within a month, it’s commendable,” she said.