The government of Uganda has launched a vaccination campaign against cervical cancer - the most common type of cancer among Ugandan women - but there are already fears a nationwide rollout might be jeopardized by lack of funds.
“We have begun the pilot vaccination exercise [targeting] cervical cancer. The exercise will continue for the next two years in the selected districts before we roll it [out] countrywide,” Health Minister Christine Ondoa said.
An estimated 460,000 doses of Gardasil, the vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), will be used. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. An estimated 140,000 girls in 12 districts will be targeted, according to government officials.
The campaign is being supported by Merk, the company that manufactures Gardasil. Officials say the government will also conduct cervical cancer screening in the selected districts.
But Asuman Lukwago, a senior ministry health official, told IRIN, “We have a challenge [getting the] money to complete this program and roll it out throughout the country.”
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Cervical cancer common
According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the second biggest cause of female cancer mortality worldwide. Globally, an estimated 500,000 women develop cervical cancer annually, 85 percent of whom live in developing countries.
Smoking, long-term hormonal contraceptive use and co-infection with HIV are some of the factors that could promote HPV’s progression to cancer. But medical professionals strongly recommend that all women over the age of 21 be screened for the disease.
Only about 5 percent of women in developing countries have been screened for cervical cancer, according to the World Health Organization.