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Ministry proposes cancer vaccine

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Ministry of Health has said a pilot study that was done in Zomba and Rumphi districts in 2014 has proved that the country can avert cervical cancer deaths if a free vaccine is offered at public facilities.

Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in Malawi killing over 1,600 women every year followed by breast cancer.

Deputy Director of Non-Communicable Diseases Dr Jones Masiye said school girls aged nine to 13 years were given the vaccine in the two districts.

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“Basically this vaccine is to help one not to acquire an HPV virus that causes cancer. We assume this group isn’t sexually active. It’s useless to give such a vaccine to sexually active women as it is also assumed that they might have already acquired the virus,” he explained.

The vaccine is available in Malawi but only in private hospitals where it costs around K15,000 or more.

“We have applied to Gavi, the ones that funded the pilot study, to help us have the vaccine in our public facilities. It will not take the approach of giving it out at schools,” he said adding that the pilot study managed to reach 98 percent of the targeted girls.

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Oncologist at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), Dr Leo Masamba said the vaccine works in women who are still virgins.

“Close to 3,000 women develop cervical cancer per year in Malawi and close to 2,000 die from it. This is a serious women and human rights issue which most rights activists do not talk about yet at times concentrate on other lesser important issues,” he said.

He pointed out that people with cancer keep losing lives because there are treatment problems including lack of radiotherapy machine to treat it.

Ministry of Health says cervical cancer is the commonest killer in females accounting for 45 percent of all cancers. It kills over 1,600 women every year in Malawi followed by breast cancer.

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