There is an alarming increase in deaths caused by Cervical Cancer in the country, the Manager of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Dr. Desmond Maada Kangbai disclosed at a press conference on Wednesday at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Freetown.

He said three hundred and seventy-two (372) deaths have been recorded of women suffering from cervical cancer in Freetown alone.

Five hundred and fifteen (515) new cases are detected annually. “That tells us that the case fatality rate of cervical cancer in Sierra Leone is very high”, the doctor stated.

He noted that the country is burdened with a high number of cervical cancer cases, the second most frequent form of cancer amongst 15 – 45 in Sierra Leone.

He said to eliminate cervical cancer in the country, the government through the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) will from 3rd to 9th October 2022 roll out vaccines for 10-year-old girls who are mostly not sexually active.

According to Dr. Kangbai, they will be targeting hundred and fifty-three thousand (153,000) girls and eight thousand and seventy-eight (8,078), schools, each girl taking two doses at a six-month interval. He explained that the first dose will be taken in October whilst the second is in April 223. He noted that they have 203,900 doses of vaccine which is to expire in February 2024.

Speaking on approaches they’ll use to reach the girls, he explained that they have partnered with the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) and the local government to ensure that the girls are given the vaccines in their schools, adding that those that do not go to school will be reached in their communities.

He explained that one thousand five hundred teams comprising vaccinators and social mobilisers will be spread across the country to ensure that the kids are vaccinated.

The doctor revealed that they will take the opportunity to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine alongside the HPV vaccines, targeting both boys and girls that are 12 years and above.

Three strategies are categorized as primary, second, and tertiary, with the primary to ensure that 90% of girls are fully vaccinated with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) order for them to be prevented.

The secondary strategy seeks to get 70% of women aged 35 – 45 years screened with a high-performance, whilst the tertiary category is to get 90% of women identified with cervical cancer disease, to receive treatment.

Deputy Programme Manager CH/EPI Dr. Lynda Farma explained that the data provided is only for te cancer registry in Freetown, noting that the data presented by Dr. Kangbai is for those that go to the hospital in Freetown only.

“Every district is affected, this figure is grossly underestimated,” said Farma. She explained that women in rural areas do not go to the hospital and that because the disease has to do with a reproductive organ, many women do not talk about it. She added that in rural areas such diseases are associated with infidelity and other things.

Responding to questions about the signs and symptoms, Farma explained that it takes ten to fifteen years for one to know that they are affected. The early symptoms of cervical cancer include intra-menstrual bleeding, bleeding after sexual intercourse, and untreatable vaginal discharge. Weight loss and bone pain are amongst the most serious advance-stage symptoms.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Clinical Dr. Mustapha Kabba appealed to parents to allow their children to take the vaccine, assuring them that it is safe with no complications that can lead to serious consequences. He said they and to ensure that in five to ten years’ time the disease would have been drastically reduced.