A research conducted by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has shown that 3,038 women are annually diagnosed with cervical cancer and 2,006 women die from the disease every year.
Globally, 500,000 new cases are diagnosed annually and 270,000 deaths, accounting for nine per cent of female cancers, are also recorded annually.
The Manager of the Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI) of the GHS, Dr. Nana K.O. Antwi-Agyei, who announced this on Tuesday at a press conference to introduce the Human Papillovirus (HPV) Vaccination exercise, said cervical cancer was a leading cause of deaths in Ghana.
He said the Ministry of Health had secured 64,000 doses of the HPV vaccine through the sponsorship of Axios Healthcare Dev. Inc. of Cleveland, USA, and the Rural Women’s Initiative for Development and Empowerment (RUWIDE), a local non-governmental (NGO) based in the north.
The vaccine, which cost $83 million, was financed by Axios Healthcare and RUWIDE was a consignee of the vaccine.
Dr Antwi-Agyei said the vaccine would be piloted in 13 districts in the Northern and the Central Regions for young girls in Primary Four and Primary Five, to protect them from contracting the disease.
The first dose started from February 11 to February 15, 2013, and targeted young girls because it was believed that they were not yet expose to sexual intercourse.
Dr Antwi-Agyei said the second dose was administered from March 18 to March 22, 2013, while the third dose would be from September 23 to September 27, 2013.
He said so far, 32,000 doses were available to take care of 1,221 schools in the targeted regions and called on parents and teachers in the selected regions to ensure that every girl within the bracket group is vaccinated.
Districts to benefit from the pilot vaccination exercise are Awutu Senya, Awutu Senya East, Cape Coast, Effutu, Ekumfi, Mfantseman and the Agona West District of the Central Region. East Gonja, Kumbungu, Mion, Savelugu Nanto, Tolon, and Yendi are the districts to benefit from the Northern Region.
Dr Antwi-Agyei announced that the findings from the pilot exercise would be used to develop a programme for the entire country.
Dr. Ebenezer Appiah Denkyira, the Director General of the GHS, said the HPV (Gardasil) vaccine was safe, effective and had been approved by the World Health Organisation and the Government of Ghana.
He said the vaccine has been tested in many countries and the results showed that it worked and is most effective if all three doses are completed on schedule.