Following a recent Newsday article raising concerns about the delay in administering the second dose of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the Ministry of Health has taken decisive action to ensure the health and safety of young girls.
The article published on August 30 this year, highlighted that the government could face a loss exceeding M9 million if prompt action was not taken to administer the crucial second dose to girls aged 9 to 14.
Valued at approximately M9 million, the vaccine is set to expire within the next seven months.
This publication further reported that amidst the procurement of the vaccine, there was a lack of clear directives from the Ministry of Health regarding the timing for the administration of the second dose.
On Friday, September 1, the ministry resumed the administration of the second dose, following a decision made late last week to support all districts in planning the school-based service delivery.
Sources revealed that districts including Mokhotlong, Butha Buthe, Mafeteng, Quthing, and Thaba Tseka were already ahead with their plans in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Training, awaiting final authorisation.
The ministry has issued a notice alerting the nation that they have already commenced the administration of the second dose of the HPV vaccine to girls aged 9-14 who received their first dose in all districts starting from September 1, 2023.
It said the notice was widely available in health centers, schools, and various public places to ensure maximum awareness and reach for eligible girls.
It also appealed to parents and guardians to ensure that eligible girls receive their second dose for their continued safety and protection.
Sources quoted in the Newsday’s last week article emphasised that without the timely administration of the crucial second dose to girls aged 9 to 14, the vaccine, valued at approximately M9 million, would expire, resulting in significant wastage.
A major concern raised was the inadequate protection provided to girls against cervical cancer without the second dose of the HPV vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) underscores the importance of administering two doses for comprehensive immunity.
The vaccine was reintroduced in April 2022, with the initial dose administered to the first cohort of girls. However, a critical lapse occurred as the second dose, crucial for full immunity, was not administered in October of the same year, as recommended by WHO guidelines.
Sources attributed the delay to internal conflicts and shifting priorities, citing conflicting workplace dynamics and a lack of clear guidance within the Ministry of Health as responsible for the missed timeline.