Schoolgirls to get cancer vaccines

By Drum Digital
20 February 2014

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.

The Department of Health says it will target girls who are not sexually active when it rolls out the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine next month.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced this during a media briefing in Parliament. Statistics indicate that cervical cancer is the second biggest killer of women in the country after breast cancer.

HIV positive women are five times more likely to get cervical cancer. Motsoaledi says they are hoping for cervical cancer free generations.

“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 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, the United Nations (UN) estimates that developing countries such as South Africa will be hardest hit over the next 15 years.

Another disturbing statistic is that more than 40% of South African children with cancer never reach a specialist centre for treatment.

NGO's say some people believe cancer only affects white children. In other cases doctors take too long to diagnose the disease.

Parents are advised to seek medical care if their child develops a white spot in the eye.

Other symptoms include prolonged fever, loss of weight and neurological problems like speech difficulties.



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