Kenya has rolled out a nationwide vaccination of girls with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the 16th African country to do so, in a campaign to eradicate cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine will be administered to 10-year-olds, with authorities targeting 800,000 in the first year.
The government has 1.3 million doses of the vaccine that will be offered nationally alongside other routine infant vaccines through public, private and faith-based health facilities.
President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the campaign in the coastal city of Mombasa with a call to Kenyans to take charge of their health by going for regular cancer screenings.
Doctors from the Catholic Church have opposed the campaign alleging that the vaccine could cause severe side effects, including brain damage, seizures or paralysis.
The president, himself a Catholic, told off critics opposed to the vaccine.
“Let us not forget what science says about vaccines. Even if we can’t eradicate it, at least we can minimise it by protecting our children and families,” he said.
Health Secretary Sicily Kariuki said two doses of the vaccine will be given six months apart.
Data from the health ministry shows that 5,250 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer last year; 3,286 of them died. No side effects have been reported in countries where the vaccine has been rolled out.