[DOUALA] The Cameroonian government plans to introduce in September 2020 Gardasil, a vaccine against cervical cancer and other genital infections linked to human papillomaviruses (HPV), in the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) on girls aged 9 at age 13, with the objective of vaccinating around 400,000 young girls.
But, doubts about the safety and reliability of this vaccine, particularly the fear that it could lead to infertility in young girls, already poses a threat to the success of this campaign, many parents who have already resolved not to submit their children to it.
This mistrust is fueled by certain opinion leaders, such as Jean Marc Ngoss, the national president of the April 48 Spirit Party.
In a correspondence addressed to the Presidency of the Republic on July 22, 2020, he wrote: “The Party of the Spirit of April 48 by my voice comes, via this correspondence, to denounce the planned vaccination campaign on 339,908 9-year-old girls. (our children) and which is being prepared throughout the country, against cancer of the cervix and other genital infections as of September 23 ”.
“It would be good to proceed beforehand with a good communication to gain the support of the populations in order to overcome prejudices and received ideas”
Jodelle Kayo, Positive Generation
Contacted by SciDev.Net, he lets it be known that his children will not be vaccinated. “The Cameroonian people can in no way be a people of guinea pigs for the big pharmaceutical companies”, he adds.
He is justified by stating that “several warning videos including one from Professor Henri Joyeux, oncologist and French surgeon, are circulating on social networks to denounce the side effects of this vaccine based on Gardasil and Cervarix”.
And he concludes by saying that if a large country like Japan has stopped administering it, it is because it is necessary to question the effectiveness of this vaccine.
Indeed, after having introduced the said vaccine into its vaccination program in 2010, Japan had to withdraw it three years later because of certain side effects observed in some patients.
Same story with Emile Toukam, a naturopath well known for his reservations towards modern medicine. “We know the vaccine contains aluminum and some aluminum-based vaccines have been seen to attack the brain,” he says.
Consequently, he advises “Africans not to accept this vaccine against cervical cancer; but rather to do early screening and to start treatment if necessary ”.
Regional focal point for epidemiological surveillance of the Ministry of Health public in the Douala region, James Longsi believes that if HPV vaccination is controversial in Cameroon, it is because it comes just at a time when there is an accumulation of prejudices about vaccination.
One of these prejudices, according to him, is associated with the free vaccine. “When people see that this campaign is free, they think it is poison that we are going to introduce into the bodies of children,” he analyzes.
To this, Positive Génération, an organization promoting health and human rights, adds that some people are afraid of the unknown. And that for others, it is lack of knowledge because they may not have been sufficiently sensitized or not at all sensitized.
“The reasons are quite varied, but it would be good to proceed to a good communication to get people to join in order to overcome prejudices and preconceived ideas, ”says Jodelle Kayo, responsible for this organization for the Douala region.
By the way, Positive Generation, sweeps aside suspicion around the vaccine against cervical cancer with the back of the hand and ensures that this vaccine against human papillomaviruses is effective.
“For some health experts with whom we have worked, this vaccine protects the girl to more than 99% and for life and its side effects are very reduced”, adds Jodelle Kayo.
40 years of studies
What James Longsi confirms. In an interview with SciDev.Net, the latter informed that the pilot vaccination projects carried out in 2014 in certain cities of Cameroon, in this case Edéa and Foumban, have not revealed any serious side effects so far.
Moreover, “this vaccine exists in pharmacies and it is prescribed by certain gynecologists. There are even women who come to health facilities and ask that their children be vaccinated, ”he says.
He also invites these people to testify in the media to reassure parents who still doubt the effectiveness and safety of this vaccine.
For his part, oncologist Blaise Nkegoum from the Yaoundé University Hospital Center recalls that a vaccine has been put on the market after long studies. Regarding this vaccine against cervical cancer, he said that it required research for more than 40 years.
“So if people are staying at home and criticizing a job that thousands of researchers have worked on, I find it too light. It is a vaccine that is safe. Even if it can have undesirable effects as with any substance, ”he says.
According to official data, cervical cancer represents the 2e cause of cancer in women in Cameroon. With an incidence of 30 per 100,000 women in Cameroon against a global incidence of 15 per 100,000 women, the annual number of new cases and deaths in the country is 2,356 and 1,546 respectively.