LRCS’ MILESTONE ON HPV VACCINE TO ADOLESCENTS

As a preventative measure to combat the Human Papilloma Virus  (HPV) for adolescent girls

Lesotho Red Cross Society (LRCS)  has vaccinated 1770 adolescent girls in its four health centres.

The health centres are Thaba Bosiu and Kena in the Maseru district, Kolojane Berea, and Mapholaneng in the Mokhotlong district.

The Ministry of Health commenced the vaccination for HPV for adolescent girls countrywide  after a record  of 604,237 women being diagnosed with cervical cancer globally, saying Cervical cancer has killed an estimated 341,843 women in 2020″

The Minister of Health Mr. Semano Sekatle was quoted by Noliwe Velaphe on an article published in the Government’s website.

According to the Minister of Health Mr Semano Sekatle in 2020, Lesotho recorded 500 patients suffering from cervical cancer and 346 were reported dead due to cancer simply because the deceased went for treatment when the disease had widely spread, and nothing could be done to treat it.

Health Minister Semano Sekatle says the cost of treating cancer patients is high, with the government spending “over M100,000 on the treatment of one cervical cancer patient”.

This vaccination campaign came after the Lesotho government reintroduced the HPV vaccination programme in April to help prevent cervical cancer. The initial programme, whose coverage was 91%, was abandoned in 2015 due to financial constraints.

The Minister was quoted as saying eligible persons for HPV are girls aged 9-14 years, therefore appealed to Basotho especially parents and teachers to assist the Ministry of Health to ensure that all eligible get vaccinated to combat the spread of cervical cancer”.

“HPV is sexually transmitted, and while sexual activity is very low within that age group, it is important that the vaccine be administered to women of any age group. The challenge in Lesotho is a lack of resources and so we are concentrating on girls because they are most vulnerable, “ the Minister continued.

According to the Head Nurse of Kena Health Centre Mr Bokang Koaatsa, they have so far vaccinated about 160 adolescent girls in 8 schools. He said this is due to parents’ hesitation in consenting to their children’s being vaccinated.

Mr Koaatsa explained that apart from hesitations from parents, the girls were too absent themselves from school during vaccination days.

On the other hand, Head Nurse Kolojane Health Centre, Ms Lihamang Maebo demonstrated that they have vaccinated about 380 adolescents over a target of 404 in four schools.

However, Ms Maebo demonstrated that their vaccination rate did not go as smooth as they thought because they did not have a data clerk. She explained that having no data clerks slowed down their vaccination rate.

“There are no Village Health Workers in some villages, therefore we were unable to get data of girls who have not been vaccinated.” she said.

A nurse administers the HPV vaccine to Lintle Christrian Academy English Medium High School student.
Credit: UNICEF Lesotho

Ms Maebo further indicated that some girls did not have booklets, which is going to be a challenge to track the process and administer the second dose.

“HPV is a two-dose scheduled vaccine with an interval of six months for both comprised or non-immunity compromised girls,” Ms Maebo added.

Ms Maebo demonstrated that there is still a need to mobilize the vaccine, especially in the villages. On the other hand, Ms Kefuoehape Masaile, Head Nurse in Thaba-Bosiu Health Centre explained that they have vaccinated 650 adolescents.

Mr Realeboha Tlhabi of Mapholaneng Health Centre in the Mokhotlong district indicated that they have vaccinated a total of about 580 adolescents.

He, however, indicated that due to the terrain and poor road infrastructure in their catchment area, it was hard to reach the schools as they had to travel long distances to reach some schools.

” There were times we almost found students released for the day at the schools. This was due to the poor roads which prohibited us to travel a few hours to the schools” he explained.

The Society’s Health and Social Services Coordinator Ms Moluoane Ramakhula pleaded with parents and guardians to consent for their children for the benefit of their health.

“The government has done an excellent initiative to protect these children against HPV. This medication is tested. It is safe and not harmful. We, therefore, plead with parents to permit their children to get the vaccine.