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The Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) Programme launched by ministers of SADEC in 2008 aims to realise the educational rights of all children, including those who are most vulnerable, through schools becoming inclusive centres of learning, care and support. One of the priorities is health promotion in schools. As part of this project, a programme of immunization of grade 4 girls against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is to be rolled out in primary schools.

The Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) Programme launched by ministers of SADEC in 2008 aims to realise the educational rights of all children, including those who are most vulnerable, through schools becoming inclusive centres of learning, care and support. One of the priorities is health promotion in schools. As part of this project, a programme of immunization of grade 4 girls against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is to be rolled out in primary schools.

In South Africa cervical cancer is the second most common cancer that affects women. If not detected at an early stage, is difficult to treat and often results in death. The incidence of cervical cancer in South Africa is reported to be between 22,8 and 27 per 100 000 women, higher than the global average of 15,8 per 100 000. Most cervical cancers (80%) are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Of the more than 100 HPV strains, HPV-16 and HPV-18 are found to cause at least 70% of all cervical cancer cases.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infectious agent. HPV causes no visible symptoms, most infections do not cause visible illness. Approximately 7 in 10 people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their lives. HPV is transmitted during sexual activity.

The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer and is most effective if administered at a young age (9 to 13 years). The vaccine is safe and effective. The HPV vaccine requires 2 doses (initial vaccine and a booster six months later). The World Health organisation recommends the vaccine for 9 to 13 year old girls, before they are exposed to HPV. The HPV vaccine is used in many countries around the world.

The HPV vaccine CANNOT treat or cure cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine CANNOT prevent or treat human immunodeficiency (HIV) infection. The HPV vaccine CANNOT prevent or end pregnancy - HPV vaccine is NOT a method of family planning. The HPV vaccine CANNOT affect a girl’s ability to have children in the future.

The Department of Basic Education together with the Department of Health are set to roll out the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine programme. Department of Health officials are set to visit primary schools to administer the HPV vaccine to all girls in grade 4 in public schools. The Department of Health has targeted 500 000 grade 4 girls in 17 000 public schools from quintile’s 1 to 5.  Schools are required to assist by providing class lists of grade 4 girls, completed and signed consent forms from the parents or guardians of girls targeted, to the health officials. It is anticipated that the administration of the HPV vaccine will not cause much disruption to teaching and learning.

The following dates have been targeted for the administration of HPV vaccine countrywide:

10 March – 11 April 2014 - (initial HPV vaccine) & 29 September – 31 October 2014 (HPV vaccine booster).