To improve the completion rates for the Human
Papilloma Virus-HPV vaccination, the Health Ministry has introduced school immunization registers in collaboration with the Education and Sports Ministry.
The HPV is a cancer causing virus that is
sexually transmitted by men. It can only be stopped by vaccination. Apparently,
girls between 10 and 13 years are vaccinated. Data from the health ministry shows that a high
number of people take the first dose of the vaccine but only a small fraction
returns for the second dose.
It is estimated that 115 percent of children got
the first dose of the vaccine in 2018 but only 47 percent returned for the
second dose. As a result, the Health Ministry has introduced school immunization registers with
the aim of improving completion rates.
The registers will contain names and contact
information of all school children within recommended age bracket of 9 to 13. Vaccination is going to be administered in
April and October annually to make sure that children are targeted when they
are at school.
According to the Health Ministry, the move is aimed at
enabling them to follow up on all ten-year-old children who receive the first
dose of the HPV vaccine but don’t return for the second one.
Dr. Alfred Driwale, the Program Manager Uganda National
Expanded Program on Immunization-UNEPI, says the previous vaccination campaign was
full of loopholes, which hindered its success. He says the Ministry’s failure
to involve parents and teachers affected the program.
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Under the new plan, the Health Ministry will register
all ten-year-old girls regardless of whether they are in primary four or not.
The previous campaign only targeted primary four pupils, which left out some
children in lower classes that were 10 ten years of age.
Sarah Opendi, the Health State Minister, attributes the low
vaccine completion rates to misinformation regarding the vaccine. She says the
new plan, which will involve sensitizing parents; district leaders and teachers
will be more successful.
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Charles Bakkabulindi, the Sports State Minister,
said that the Education ministry is dedicated to this inter-ministerial
partnership to make the plan a success.
“As a ministry that deals with primary schools,
it is easy for us to follow up what is happening in schools. So we are going to
map out all schools and link them to the nearest health facility. This way, we
shall have a network of schools and health centers linked to each other.”
According to the Uganda Cancer Institute, the HPV vaccine
reduces ones likelihood of acquiring cervical cancer by 95 percent. Dr. Jackson Orem, the Executive Director Uganda Cancer
Institute, says that cervical cancer is on the rise in the country.
“Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most
common type of cancer. Here in Uganda, it is number one. Eight out of every ten
women that we see at UCI suffering from cancer have cervical cancer. The number
is high yet we have a vaccine that offers protection to women,” he said.
The new plan is going to take effect at the end of April
2019. The health ministry targets to vaccinate 673,979 children against the HPV
this year. The health ministry is planning on holding sensitization campaigns
to educate parents, teachers and local leaders on the importance of the