Garissa County aims to vaccinate 33,885 girls against Human papillomavirus (HPV) in a drive launched Thursday by Garissa Health Department.
The vaccine will be administered to girls under 10 as a protective measure against cervical cancer.
Speaking when he launched the jab at the Garissa primary school playgrounds Health County Executive Committee Member Ahmed Nathir said at least nine women die every day from cervical cancer in Kenya.
“It is our mothers, our aunts, our sisters and daughters who suffer the most from the burden of this disease. Cancer of the cervix, is the leading cause of cancer related deaths among women in Kenya. But this is now preventable through vaccination,” Nathir said.
Nathir regretted that myths and misinformation about the vaccine may make the target difficult to attain.
“There has been a lot of misinformation about this vaccine. Do not listen to the misinformation out there. This will save our girls from cancer,” he said.
“One myth is that it encourages girls to have sex. Some people say that vaccines in general can cause sterility. Neither is true,” he added.
The vaccine is safe and has been in Kenya for years though it was only being given in private hospitals. “The jab costs Sh 8,000 in private hospitals but we are giving it for free,” the CEC said.
“We are targeting 10-year-old girls on the presumption that they are not yet sexually active and puberty is setting in,” he said.
The girls will be administered the vaccine in two doses, six months apart free of charge across all health facilities in the county including in the refugee camps.
The vaccine will be offered alongside other routine infant vaccines through public, private, faith based and NGO health facilities.
HPV is a viral infection that is passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. There are more than 40 varieties of HPV which are passed through sexual contact and can affect the genitals, mouth, or throat.
Various strains of HPV spread through sexual contact and are associated with most cases of cervical cancer.
This vaccine offers 95 percent lifetime protection in most cases of cervical cancer if given before a girl or woman is exposed to the virus.
In addition, the vaccine can prevent vaginal and vulva cancer in women and can prevent genital warts and anal cancer in women and men.