In a significant stride towards combating cervical cancer, the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has announced its plans to roll out a nationwide vaccination campaign targeting young girls aged 9 to 14. The initiative aims to curb the prevalence of the human papillomavirus (HPV) among women in Ghana, with the ultimate goal of reducing the incidence of cervical cancer.
The decision to focus on pre-adolescents stems from the recognition of the importance of immunizing individuals before they become sexually active, given the alarming rate of cervical cancer cases in the country. Dr. Kwame Amponsah-Achiano, the Programmes Manager for the Expanded Programme on Immunization at the Ghana Health Service, emphasized the necessity of administering the two-dose vaccine to each child.
Drawing from lessons learned during a pilot phase, the nationwide vaccination campaign is set to commence by the end of the year. Dr. Amponsah-Achiano highlighted the evolution of the vaccination protocol, from initially requiring three doses to now contemplating a single dose, albeit with the caveat of a well-established screening program. However, the preference leans towards administering two doses, deemed the optimal approach.
According to data from the ICO/IARC Information Centre on HPV and Cancer, Ghana faces a significant burden of cervical cancer, with an estimated 10.6 million women aged 15 years and older at risk of developing the disease. Annually, approximately 2797 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, resulting in 1699 fatalities. Notably, cervical cancer ranks as the second most frequent cancer among Ghanaian women, particularly those between 15 and 44 years of age.
While specific data on HPV prevalence in Ghana’s general population is not yet available, statistics from Western Africa, the region to which Ghana belongs, indicate that approximately 4.3% of women harbor cervical HPV16/18 infection at any given time. Moreover, HPVs 16 or 18 are responsible for 55.6% of invasive cervical cancers in the region.
The nationwide vaccination campaign signifies a proactive approach by the Ghana Health Service in addressing the cervical cancer burden, underscoring the importance of preventive measures in safeguarding the health and well-being of the population. By immunizing young girls against HPV, Ghana aims to significantly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer and improve the overall health outcomes for its citizens.