Namibia to Begin HPV Vaccine Rollout in April

Windhoek, Namibia — A top Namibian health official tells VOA the southern Africa country is set to begin distribution of the HPV vaccine to adolescent girls in April as a preventative measure in the fight against cervical cancer.

Namibia has a population of about 1 million women ages 15 years and older who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.

Each year, about 375 women in Namibia are diagnosed with the disease, and the fatality rate is over 50%.

The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine, known as HPV, has been proven to greatly lessen the chance of getting cervical cancer.

Ben Nangombe, executive director at Namibia’s Ministry of Health and Social Services, says health workers will begin vaccinating about 183,000 girls between the ages of nine and 14 next month.

He says the ministry has been allocated $7 million to procure single dose vaccines for this purpose.

Mehafo Amunyela, who works at the #Be Free Youth Program in the capital’s Katutura Township, told VOA that vaccine hesitancy could be a hurdle to fully immunizing the target population. She said she hopes that through awareness campaigns, children and their families can be educated about the advantages of getting the vaccine.

“We saw the reaction of the public toward the COVID vaccine when it came out, but I think we need to be honest with ourselves and remember that the reason we don’t have illnesses like polio is because of vaccines, that they worked then, and they still do now,” she said.

The Cancer Association of Namibia says the vast distances between most towns and villages in Namibia could present another logistical challenge in the immunization program.

The association says to achieve the target of immunizing 183,000 girls, awareness campaigns should be undertaken in the different indigenous languages spoken in the country.

With the rollout of the HPV vaccine, Namibia is on the path to do its part in meeting the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 90% of girls worldwide by 2030, with the long-term goal of eliminating cervical cancer within the next century.

Although cervical cancer is preventable and curable, the disease claimed 350,000 lives worldwide in 2022 according to the WHO. 

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