Young girls in poor schools to get cancer vaccine

2013-05-15 16:03

Young girls attending poor public schools in South Africa will soon have the opportunity to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced in Parliament today that from February next year quintile 1, 2, 3 and 4 schools would start offering the HPV vaccine as part of the integrated school health programme.

The vaccine is currently available only in the private healthcare sector because of its hefty price tag.

A dose costs between R500 and R750 and for a person to be fully protected against HPV they must have three doses.

Motsoaledi said he was “extremely happy” to make the announcement – the result of a decision taken in consultation with the ministers of finance and basic education.

The vaccine will be administered to girls between 9 and 10 years of age who are not yet sexually active. The department of health aims to vaccinate at least 385 000 girls.

Motsoaledi explained that although the intention was was to vaccinate girls from poor schools, government would not discriminate against girls from poor families who attend wealthy schools.

“Children from poor families who find themselves for one reason or the other in quintile 5 schools will also be covered,” he said.

Cervical cancer affects 6 000 South African women annually of which between 3 000 and 3 500 die as a result.

Motsoaledi called on medical schemes to pay for the vaccine to help parents in the category of learners who will not be covered by this programme.

- City Press

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