Low cervical cancer vaccination fuelling deaths – MSF


Experts at Médecins Sans Frontières say lack of interest in screening and low uptake of vaccine are factors leading to a high number of cervical cancer related deaths in Malawi.

This is according to Marion Pechayre who is the Head of Mission at Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders which is a charity organisation that provides humanitarian medical care.

Pechayre made the revelations on Saturday, May 27, 2023 in Blantyre during a media engagement where it was disclosed that Malawi has the second highest mortality related to cervical cancer.

The Head of Mission reported that in Malawi each year about 4,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer of which 2,900 deaths are recorded annually.

She attributed the high number of deaths to low number of women interested in cervical cancer screening and also low uptake of cervical cancer vaccine.

“Cervical cancer can be prevented by HPV vaccination but the coverage for HPV vaccination in Malawi is low. The coverage of vaccination is one of the major challenges in the fight against cervical cancer.

“Some studies have shown that if we had started vaccinating 8 percent of 9-14 years old girls and screening for cervical cancer all women after 25 years old in 2020, we would reach epidemic control in the year 2100,” said Pechayre.

She said the only thing that will help the country to win the fight against cervical cancer, is the understanding of how crucial cervical cancer screening and vaccination is key to prevention.

Meanwhile, MSF is this week launching Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign to thousands of young girls in Chikwawa District aged between 9 and 14.

According to MSF Cervical Cancer Project Coordinator Sylvie Goossens, the campaign targets over 43,000 schoolgirls from 200 district schools and 5,000 out-of-school girls.

“Since the HPV vaccine needs to be given between the ages of 9 to 14, the uptake is very low because visits to health centres are less frequent in Malawi at that age.

“So, MSF is supporting these vaccination campaigns because it is crucial that as many girls as possible receive their HPV vaccine and are prevented from developing cervical cancer,” said Goossens.

This campaign is coming after the organisation carried a similar one where it vaccinated 17,000 girls in Phalombe in January and 52,000 in Machinga between February and March this year.

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