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SHOULD THE HPV VACCINE BE VOLUNTARY IN KENYA?

SHOULD THE HPV VACCINE BE VOLUNTARY IN KENYA?

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I applaud and appreciate the Kenyan government’s initiative to have the rollout of the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine in Kenya. The administering of the vaccine is aimed at preventing our 10-year-old girls from the imminent threat posed by the highly dreaded cervical cancer. I also do understand pretty well about the cancer burden. I won’t be wrong if I said that almost 85% of Kenyan families can barely bear the cost of the rigorous tests and procedures used to screen for cervical cancer leave alone the emotional drain involved.

Hitherto, there are no enough well-equipped oncology centres in our country.  Therefore, the HPV vaccine is highly welcome especially during these harsh economic times for it is a cheaper preventive measure.  The vaccine’s work is to provide cushion before exposure and it thus should be administered in time.

However, my greatest worry is the target group for this vaccine. So the mega question and the bone that we should be picking is whether it is appropriate to administer the vaccine to all ten-year-old girls in Kenya. My opinion is that the government should give Kenyans a choice to either have their girls vaccinated or not. This is because there is documented evidence showing the side effects that are linked to this vaccine.  These include pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot is administered, fever, headache or feeling tired, nausea, muscle or joint pain among others. Moreover, some of these side effects are similar to those of hormonal birth control methods such as oral contraceptives and injections which some mature women cannot bear with. So if a 30-year-old woman can opt-out of a family planning method since she cannot stomach the side effects, can a 10-year-old do?

Secondly, the government needs to take it account the fact that we are all unique. We are therefore bound to react differently to this vaccine. In some cases, the reaction the vaccine may be as expected but in others, the side effects might be too much for the youngsters to bear.  As a matter of cause, it should thus try to create public awareness about the risks involved first before administering the vaccine.

Thirdly, the Kenyan government should bear in mind that there are some special groups of people who should not be vaccinated. For example, scientific evidence shows that the following people should never get the ‘Gardasil’ HPV vaccine:

Anyone who has a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component or a previous dose of the HPV vaccine
Anyone who has severe allergic reactions to yeast
Anyone who is expectant
People who are moderately or severely ill for they are advised to wait until they get better

Furthermore, the government needs to be reminded of the fact that we have a generation to protect. If we give them too much leeway, they may end up being worse than they already are. I am a teacher and I have been advised not once or twice by sagacious and mentally sound pharmacists to preach abstinence to my form two instead of birth control methods which they are abusing.

Lastly, not all 10-year-old girls are sexually active. Some can exercise self -control by abstaining. Since abstinence delays the girl’s sexual debut it perfectly reduces the risk of contracting HPV without exposing her to any danger. So there you are: Not every ten year old should be vaccinated.

My argument is that the government should exercise patience and caution even as it tries to administer the vaccine. We know it has got honourable intentions but it should let the parents of the girls assess the need to have their daughters vaccinated and the risks involved.

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