Zambia Launches Program To Vaccinate Girls Against HPV

    06 August, 2013


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Health Report.

    Zambia has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the world, 90 of every 100,000 Zambian women get the preventable disease. The Zambian government recently launched a program to vaccinate school girls against the Human Papilloma Virus - HPV. The virus is known to cause cervical cancer. HPV can spread through sexual contact.

    The government hopes to vaccinate school girls between the ages of 9 - 11 against HPV. The program was launched in May at several schools. One of them is the Kalingalinga Primary School in Lusaka, about 100 students there received the HPV vaccine.

    Euphrasia Mweshi Mutale is a teacher, she was involved in efforts to inform the community about what was expected to be a sensitive subject. Miss Mutale is happy with the earlier results. She says people involved in the program met with parents and teachers to tell them why it is good to vaccinate the girls. She knows there have been no immediate reported side effects from the vaccine, like high body temperature or skin discoloration.

    Mulindi Mwanahamuntu is the director of the Cervical Cancer Prevention Program in Zambia. He says health officials want to vaccinate 25,000 girls as part of the of program, but he says there was some resistance from churches and other groups.

    "The very fact that it is given to the pre-sexual years it would indicate to others that we are permitting children therefore to go out and have sex."

    Zambian and international health officials are working to break the resistance by educating communities in different ways.

    Dr. Pelum-Hazeley is with the United Nations. She starts in a local radio program called Celebrating Life. Her program aims to educate listeners on medical issues, so they can make the right decisions for their children.

    "We just have to continue educating the people because if someone has had a complication, and of course there are reasons why there are complications. It does not necessarily mean the same thing is going to happen here."

    The World Health Organization rates Zambia third on its list of highest death rates from cervical cancer. The country also has the highest cervical cancer rate in Africa.

    And that's the Health Report from VOA Learning English. Go to our website to leave comments on our stories and to find more stories for people learning American English. I'm Milagros Ardin.