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Health Ministry introduces school immunization registers

 

FILE PHOTO: State Minister for Health Sarah Opendi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | 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.

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.

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 vaccine.

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