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Cervical Cancer: Private Clinics Popularize Adult Vaccine

According to the medics, the HPV vaccine is vital to adult women between the ages of 25-45 since they are sexually active and likely to get infected with the virus. However, with the high costs attached to the vaccine, many women are likely to be left out

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‘Have you ever received the HPV vaccine?” an employee at the Surgery Uganda located in Naguru asks a lady seeking a flu shot. "You can get it even at your age."

This is a question that many private vaccination clinics in the country ask when ladies go to get vaccinated for other illnesses. The same is asked at Jabez Vaccination Clinic and the East African Centre for Vaccines and Immunization.

 

According to vaccination providers, the question is meant to close the gap between those who have been vaccinated and those who were not.  They say the government decided to popularise the virginal shot given to girls aged between 9 and 11. 

Now, the clinics target 18-to-50-year olds who are sexually active but might have missed getting a shot of the vaccine.

Sharon Otoori, a nurse and vaccinologist from Jabez Vaccination Clinic located on Mulago Hill, says that many people associate the HPV vaccine with school-going children, but this should not the be case. 

 

Otoori says in the Uganda setting, it is vital for women in this age group to get the vaccine because they are sexually active and have higher chances of getting cervical cancer.  She says sexually active people need the vaccine more than pre-teens.

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Unlike in young girls who get two vaccine shots apart, for women, three doses are required. The first dose is taken after presenting a pap smear test that shows you do not have cervical cancer.

Ombeva Malande MD, a Vaccinologist and a Senior Consultant on Peadiatric Infectious Diseases says that women in this age bracket can get the vaccine whether they are sexually active or not.

“Previously, the recommendation that only girls should get the vaccine because they are not sexually active was condemning all women that they are sexually active, Dr Malande said.   "Studies show that even if women have been exposed to the virus, they can be protected when they are vaccinated if they are not sick. Yet, women of childbearing age need this vaccine because it protects them from cervical cancer which has become the leading cause of death among cancer patients.” 

According to Dr Malande, for the adult shot, it is recommended to use the Gardasil 9 HPV vaccine which offers protection from nine stereotypes of HPV that can lead to different cancers and genital diseases like watts, cervical cancer, oral thrush.   

Dr Immaculate Ampaire, the deputy programme manager of the Uganda National Expanded Programme on Immunization, says while they encourage adult women to get the shot, the government cannot afford to give it to them.

Ampaire says women who can afford to get the shot should get it.

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The price of getting the shot ranges from 75,000 to 200,000 per shot depending on where one goes. Elizabeth Mugoya, a 37-year-old engineer who our reporter finds at the surgery after getting her first shot, says she is happy to get the vaccine.

“I had given up on getting the vaccine. I thought I had missed it since during my time at school the government didn’t offer it. The cost is high, but it is cheaper than treating cervical cancer,” Mugoya said.

Dr Amapire, however, cautions women on going for cervical cancer screening even if they get vaccinated.  

“Vaccination is good, but to know whether it was effective or not, women need to go for routine screening regularly. This is the only way to know whether you are protected or not,” Dr Ampaire said.

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