Pretoria — Primary school girls will from this year be immunised against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.
President Jacob Zuma made the announcement at the launch of Ngidini Primary School in Libode in the Eastern Cape.
He said government will target girls aged between nine and 12 years of age, through the Integrated School Health Programme.
"The Departments of Basic Education and Health will work closely together in this national programme to protect our girls from this disease.
"Vaccination teams from the Department of Health will visit schools twice a year to ensure that each girl-child receives two doses of the HPV vaccine. We urge parents to cooperate with us and help us succeed in fighting cervical cancer," said President Zuma.
Cancer of the cervix is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in South Africa. Estimates indicate that there are 16 million women over the age of 15 years who are at risk of cervical cancer. There are more than 5 000 cases per year in South Africa and around 3 000 deaths from this cancer and black women carry the heaviest burden of the disease.
"The introduction of the HPV vaccine is a significant public health milestone for South Africa. It will significantly contribute to the control of the cancer and reduce associated deaths within the next two to three decades", said the President.
Ngidini Primary, which had been a mud school, is now a modern state-of-the-art school. It was rebuilt as part of government's infrastructure build programme for schools, the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI). Government has spent R1.2 billion in the school building programme, replacing mud schools and other inappropriate buildings. One new school a week has been launched in the Eastern Cape in the past year as part of the programme.
Today, the President officially opened the Mandela School of Science and Technology in Mvezo near Mthatha, built by Siemens at a cost of R100 million, in one of the country's major public-private partnerships in education.