CAPE TOWN, Feb 19 — The South African Department of Health says it will target girls who are not sexually active when it rolls out the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine next month and girls in all public primary schools will be vaccinated to prevent cervical cancer.
About 550,000 girls in Grade Four will receive the first dose next month and the second dose after six months, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi at a media briefing here Tuesday.
Statistics indicate that cervical cancer is the second biggest killer of women in the country after breast cancer and HIV-positive women are five times more likely to get cervical cancer, said Motsoaledi, who added that the department was hoping for cervical cancer-free generations in years to come.
“We have selected the grade four girls in every public school and in March we are going to launch a vaccination programme for them. This means that every year, any child who happens to go through Grade 4 will go through that vaccination so that we have a new generation of women who are protected from (cervical) cancer,” he says.
Around 600 children are diagnosed with cancer in South Africa every year and experts have warned that this could just be the tip of the iceberg. They say many parents either ignore the symptoms or are unaware that their children are suffering from the disease.
The rate of cancer is increasing rapidly across the globe, with the United Nations estimating that developing countries such as South Africa will be hardest hit over the next 15 years. Another disturbing statistic is that more than 40 per cent of South African children with cancer never reach a specialist centre for treatment.