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Protecting girls’ future

The Human Papilomavirus (HPV) is responsible for 99% of cervical cancer cases, but thanks to free vaccinations against HPV offered to girls, like the 9-year-old girls at Victoria Park Primary in Worcester, they are safe.

Having daughters vaccinated against HPV is one of the numerous things parents can do to protect their daughters. To show it is serious about the health of women, the Western Cape Government Health’s second round of vaccinations against HPV coincided with Women’s Month.

When Sr Zelda Pretorius of the Breede Valley Sub-District recently asked participating girls why they needed to be vaccinated, one of the learners answered, “to care for your womb.” While the girls initially filed into the classroom clenching their left arms in anticipation of receiving the injection, Pretorius put them at ease as she explained what they could expect.

According to a statement released by the Western Cape Department of Health, during this round of vaccination in the Breede Valley, that comes to a close on 14 September, more than 1 500 girls here will have been vaccinated, more than 6 200 in the Cape Winelands District. It has been four years since Western Cape Government Health has introduced the Cervarix vaccine in March 2014.

“You only have a brief window to ensure that the child is protected against the virus,” said Roenell Ballie, assistant manager to Comprehensive Health Services at the Department of Health’s Cape Winelands District Office. “If a child received the first injection, but was absent during the second round of vaccines, you have to make sure that you go back within the six-month period to give the second vaccination.”

Parents and caregivers have an important decision to make when their daughters go to Grade 4, as the vaccination is administered only for this age group, and only girls with signed consent forms will receive the vaccination.

Why is it important to vaccinate against HPV?

. Two strains of HPV (HPV-16 and HPV-18) are found to have caused cervical cancer in more than 70% of cases .

. Cervarix is the vaccination that will be administered in two doses for optimal cover. It protects against the HPV-16 and HPV-18 strains.

. HPV is an extremely common virus, and it is estimated that approximately 80% of women will be infected with the virus some time in their lives.

. The vaccination protects girls from being infected by HPV and reduces the risk of developing HPV-related cervical cancer later in life.

According to the statement, the vaccination is administered by injection in two doses. The vaccine doesn’t promote sexual promiscuity, but ensures that when girls reach adulthood they will be protected against the HPV virus’ carcinogenic (cancer causing) effects.

The first round of HPV vaccinations for 2019 starts in February.

For more information, visit www.westerncape.gov.za/static/health-facilities.

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