Sierra Leone introduces HPV vaccine to protect girls from cervical cancer

By UnreguserXu Zheng

FREETOWN, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The government of Sierra Leone has introduced the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to protect girls from cervical cancer, said a press statement by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) on Tuesday.

MoHS, with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and World Health Organization (WHO), will administer HPV vaccines nationwide through schools targeting 153,991 10-year-old girls, who will each receive two doses over a six-month period, the statement said.

MoHS said the HPV vaccine has provided a proven and safe tool to protect women and girls against the risk of cervical cancer and it is one of the key strategies that the government is implementing for cervical cancer elimination in the country.

"The Government of Sierra Leone wholeheartedly welcomes the introduction of the HPV vaccination drive and urges all to support girls of 10 years of age to be vaccinated and thus preventing them from cervical cancer and its consequences during the course of their entire lives," said Minister of Health and Sanitation Austin Demby.

According to Thabani Maphosa, the Managing Director of Country Programs at Gavi, supporting countries to catch up and improve HPV coverage is a critical priority and will require action on the demand and supply side.

The MoHS said an intensive promotion is ongoing at a community level to help raise public awareness about the HPV vaccine and make sure the targeted age group of girls, community members, and leaders are empowered and informed about the tools available to prevent cervical cancer.

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