Médecins Sans Frontières expands HPV vaccine campaign in Malawi – Capital Radio Malawi
23 April, 2024

Médecins Sans Frontières expands HPV vaccine campaign in Malawi

Malawi has the second highest mortality rate related to cervical cancer. Photo Credit: Médecins Sans Frontières

International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is set to launch a vaccine campaign again the Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) in Chikwawa district.

The organisation indicates that the campaign which is touted as an effective way to prevent cervical cancer among women will target young girls between 9 and 14 years old.

“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,” says MSF Cervical Cancer Project Coordinator Sylvie Goossens in a press statement.

According to MSF, currently, one of the most effective ways to reach young girls on a large scale and prevent them from contracting the virus is to offer the vaccine at their schools. 

This year alone, 17,000 girls in Phalombe were vaccinated in January and 52,000 in Machinga between February and March.

And from May 29 to 31, MSF plans to vaccinate over 48,000 schoolgirls from 200 district schools along with thousands of out-of-school girls across Chikwawa.

Malawi has the second highest mortality rate related to cervical cancer in the world, with 51.5 deaths per 100,000 people per year—seven times the global rate.

Enhanced prevention therefore remains a top priority to reduce the cancer burden for women in the country. 

Commenting on the same, Dr George Chilinda, MSF onco-surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre says, “In Malawi, due to late detection, the average age of diagnosis is 49—often too late to avoid terminal illness and the suffering that accompanies it. These women are the cervical cancer cases that should not be, because they could have been prevented.”

It is estimated that nearly all cases of cervical cancer are attributable to persistent infection by HPV. The virus which is also the most common sexually transmitted infections and affects both men and women.

Since 2017, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, MSF has been developing a comprehensive cervical cancer program in Malawi with the goal of improving access to HPV vaccination, screening, early diagnosis, treatment and – if needed, palliative care, for women in the southern region of Malawi.

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