The Gambia has introduced a new vaccine to fight the cervical cancer virus called human papilloma virus (HPV) among girls and women.

It is the second country after Senegal to introduce the vaccine in Africa.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday programme manager of the Health ministry’s Expanded Programme for Immunisation Sedat Fofana described the virus as deadly and urged the public particularly young girls to take the vaccines.

He said: “the disease if detected early is curable but most importantly it is preventable. The prevention works well among girls who have not started sexual activity that’s why we are choosing that cohort from 9 years before they start sexual activities up to 14 years.”

UNICEF’s Gambia Office Immunising Officer Buya Jallow welcomed the introduction of the vaccine with delight describing it “as a great achievement in the history of The Gambia … (and) one of the fundamental right of every child is the right to health”.

She added: “If we have things in place like vaccine that can protect our children and we deliver that and we are successful of that, I think that we are fulfilling our responsibility to the rights of these children.”

The new vaccine targets young girls between the ages of 9 and 14 in schools both conventional and non-conventional including non school going girls. This age group has yet to experience sexual activity.

However health officials are urging girls between 15 and 24 years to regularly visit hospital and health centres for screening while women of 25 years upwards are urged to go for screening every two years in order to fight the virus early.

Reports linked 311,365 deaths to cervical cancer and human Papilloma virus globally, and 569,847 new cases globally and which is being described as one of the most killer diseases among women across the world.

It is said to be the second most common disease among women in the Gambia.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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