ACCRA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Ghana's Health Service (GHS) on Tuesday launched a vaccination program aimed at curbing cervical cancer among women of child-bearing age.
The program, which will be conducted in three phases with the first beginning on Feb.11-13, will also focus on raising awareness of the disease, GHS's Director-general Ebenezer Appiah-Denkyira said.
"The vaccination exercise will target 13 districts in the two regions; thus all girls in grade four or five in both public and private schools in those districts will be vaccinated against cervical cancer with the HPV (Gardasil) vaccine," he said at a press briefing.
Cervical cancer, caused by the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), affects the lower part of the uterus (womb) that connects to the vagina. It occurs when the cells at the opening of the womb become abnormal and start to grow and get out of control.
Appiah-Denkyira noted that, for the vaccine to work best, it is very important for adolescents to get all three doses (shots) long before any sexual activity begins.
The vaccine produces a higher antibody level to fight infection when given at this age compared to older ages, he said.` He called on parents and caregivers to take advantage of the program and ensure that their children are vaccinated against the preventable disease.
He also urged teachers and school authorities to work closely with the health staff to get all qualified children vaccinated.
Cervical cancer ranks as the most prevalent cancer among women in Ghana, particularly, those aged 15 to 44.
By 2025, the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that there will be over 5,000 new cases of cervical cancer in Ghana and at least 3,300 cervical cancer deaths annually.