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HEALTH authorities have dismissed accusations they were putting the lives of over 4 000 Zimbabwean teenage girls into danger, through an experimental project meant to gauge the effectiveness of new cervical cancer vaccine.

Portia Manangazira, Director of Epidemiology Disease Control in the Health Ministry told Newzimbabwe.com at the weekend that the pilot National Demonstration Project for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine was well intentioned and was in line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations.

She said contingency plans were also in place to prevent cases where some targets for the trial project can react to the vaccine.

“The vaccine that if being introduced in Zimbabwe is not new as it has been used in other countries and has proved to be very successful,” said Manangazira who added, “Parents should not listen to some people who do not have any medical or scientific background but are just criticising the demo project and above all parents will sign a consent form.

“We should bear in mind that the government has implemented prevention programmes and if you look at the last five years, quite a lot has been done in this area and one that comes to mind is the Mass Drug Administration (MDA) which was launched last year in Shamva district, Mashonaland Central province for bilharzias.”

Manangazira admitted all vaccines the world had their own side effects. She said they have put in place plans to deal with the cases.

“Should you have any health problems, you will be referred for appropriate care by your school health master or the nurse seeing you urgently,” she said.

The project, set to be launched in Beitbridge and Marondera May 19, is targeting more than four thousand teenage girls.

Said Manangazira, “We chose Beitbridge and Marondera because of their respond to other immunisation programmes and we hope parents will come with their teenagers and support this HPV vaccine project and prepare girls for healthy childhood.”

The National Demonstration Project for Human Papilloma Virus vaccination is a joint initiative by the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education with support of GAVI Alliance and local partners.

It is meant to prevent cancer of the cervix and each girl will get 3 doses in May, June and November to complete the vaccination course.

The pilot programme will be targeting girls from five years and above and will run up to 2016, where it will be extended to other districts in the country. After this pilot project, authorities are expected to be better equipped on how to deliver a vaccine to pre-teenage girls.

According to Mike Chirenje, a cancer specialist based at the University of Zimbabwe, it costs between $80-$120 to get a dose of the vaccine from private doctors, adding this was daylight robbery.

“Under normal circumstances, the dose should cost about $30 and private hospital are taking aantage of, because you can afford, pay much for it which in that case is not complementing government in the fight against cancer,” he said.

The HVP vaccine is effective against the virus responsible for the 70 percent cases of cancer of the cervix or mouth of the womb. It is one of the two anti-cancer vaccines available in the world currently, the other being the Hepatitis B virus vaccine which protects against cancer of the liver.

Source : New Zimbabwe