DAR ES SALAAM, With remarkable success being registered during the execution of cervical cancer vaccination demonstration in Kilimanjaro Region, the Tanzanian government is now working on plans to roll out the immunisation programme countrywide.

The nationwide immunisation against the human papillomavirus (HPV) will scale up prevention measures, with the disease being ranked as the first leading cause of female cancer in the country.

The HPV vaccine is administered to girls aged between 9 and 13 years, who are sexually inactive to prevent them from the disease.

The Director of Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Neema Rusibamayila, said that the government is currently working to see the possibilities of introducing the HPV vaccine nationwide between next year and 2019.

Dr Rusibamayila said that the government through her ministry had submitted an application to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) on its plans to roll out the HPV vaccine next year, but it was waiting for confirmation.

Tanzania is among countries that benefited from GAVI support to carry out HPV vaccine demonstration programmes that could help them to come up with a system that will be used to roll out the immunisation countrywide.

We have already submitted our application to GAVI so that we can begin the programme next year, but there is also an issue of global supply of the vaccine because many countries have started providing it to young girls, she said.

She noted that the application has been approved and they were only waiting for confirmation from GAVI on whether they can start the programme next year or not.

Dr Rusibamayila, however, explained that the pilot programme introduced in Kilimanjaro was not meant to test the efficacy of the HPV vaccine, but to come up with a system that could be used to implement the programme nationwide.

She said that during the first year of its implementation, they discovered that the financial delivery costs of nationwide HPV vaccination were too high and thus it could be difficult to administer the vaccine to the girls countrywide.

Dr Rusibamayila added that during the second year of implementation, they delivered the vaccine through existing health facilities and outreach sessions which contributed a lot in minimising cost.

She, however, noted that provision of the vaccine in Kilimanjaro Region will continue until the programme is introduced across the country. In April 2014, the government through the Ministry of Health introduced HPV vaccine to girls aged 9 to 13 years, to prevent them from cervical cancer.

Statistics from Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI), showed that one-tenth of the estimated 72,000 new cases and 56,000 cervical cancer deaths in sub-Sahara African countries reported for the year 2000, occurred in Tanzania.

Using an age-standardised incidence rate (ASR), Tanzania was found to have 50.9 cases per 100,000 women and using an agestandardised mortality rate it had 37.5 per cent in 100,000 women.

In 2009, for instance, cervical cancer accounted for 35.3 per cent of all cancer patients at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI). It is estimated that 80 per cent of patients diagnosed with cervical cancer die within five years of diagnosis.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) report 2012, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide, with an estimated 528,000 new cases annually after breast, colorectal and lung cancers. mme countrywide.