Kenya is set to adopt a single-dose vaccination strategy for girls aged nine to 14 years, aligning with recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO). Currently, these girls receive two doses of the vaccine six months apart, but due to low return rates for the second dose, the country is considering the efficacy of a single dose.

The Kenya National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group, responsible for guiding vaccination policies in the country, is expected to endorse this transition to a single-dose regimen, reflecting the latest WHO guidelines. Despite efforts to administer the two-dose regimen, only a fraction of vaccinated girls complete the full course, prompting a reassessment of vaccination strategies to maximize effectiveness.

Research studies have indicated that a single dose of the vaccine offers comparable protection against cervical cancer as the two-dose regimen. This finding not only simplifies vaccination efforts but also allows for the allocation of resources to reach more girls who remain unvaccinated. With the endorsement of a single-dose strategy, countries can redirect efforts towards expanding vaccine coverage and reaching vulnerable populations.

The decision to adopt a single-dose vaccination strategy was announced during the first-ever global cervical cancer elimination forum held in Colombia. This landmark event aimed to accelerate efforts towards eradicating cervical cancer, a preventable disease that continues to claim the lives of thousands of women worldwide. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general, emphasized the importance of scaling up vaccination, screening, and treatment programs to address the global burden of cervical cancer.

Local civil society organizations in Kenya have welcomed the adoption of the single-dose vaccine strategy, emphasizing its potential to improve vaccine coverage and reduce drop-out rates. The endorsement of this strategy underscores the commitment to empowering women and girls to take control of their health, particularly in the context of International Women’s Day.

In addition to the transition to a single-dose vaccine, donors at the cervical cancer conference pledged substantial funding to support elimination efforts. Contributions from organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unicef, and the World Bank will bolster vaccination campaigns, screening initiatives, and treatment programs, aiming to eliminate cervical cancer for the first time.

Cervical cancer remains a significant public health challenge in Kenya, with thousands of women succumbing to the disease annually. The introduction of the HPV vaccine into the routine immunization schedule in 2019 marked a crucial step in preventing cervical cancer. However, efforts to achieve high vaccine coverage have faced challenges, prompting a reevaluation of vaccination strategies.

Recent research conducted by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has provided compelling evidence supporting the efficacy of a single dose of the HPV vaccine. Prof. Nelly Mugo and her colleagues observed high levels of efficacy among girls who received a single dose, reinforcing the potential of this approach to prevent cervical cancer. The findings of this study, published in The Lancet, underscore the importance of adopting evidence-based strategies to combat cervical cancer effectively.

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