PUTTING MY HEALTH FIRST

...should get the human papillomavirus vaccine

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Every 12-year-old girl should get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The vaccine, which is injected in the arm, prevents women from becoming infected with HPV - a virus linked to cancers including cervical cancer. The vaccine can be vital to your health. To help us all learn more about it and its role in the prevention of cervical cancer, we met with two young girls who have recently been vaccinated.

Ni Nyampinga first visited Angelique from Nyabihu District whose parents didn’t want her to be vaccinated because they believed some misinformation. She ended up receiving the vaccine after a community health worker explained why it was important for their daughter’s health. We also met Germaine, who wanted the vaccine but was afraid of the pain from the injection.

When 17-year-old Angelique was due to get her first dose of the HPV vaccine, she spoke to her parents for advice but they discouraged her. “They were not informed about the benefits of the vaccine,” she said. “I was shocked and sad,” Angelique told Ni Nyampinga. On vaccination day her friends went to get the injection, but Angelique stayed behind in class. Angelique shared her problem with the community health worker, who talked to Angelique's mother and explained the importance of the vaccine. Angelique's mother came to understand that it would keep her daughter healthy and doesn’t prevent her from having children when she grows up.

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“The community health worker told me the vaccine reduces the chances of getting a viral infection that may cause cervical cancer. Angelique was so happy when I told her she could get the vaccination, and she returned to school for it,” Angelique’s mother said. Angelique got the subsequent doses of the vaccine with the help of her mother who kept reminding her. This is important because the vaccine is only effective if both of the recommended doses are completed.

“I worried that not getting the vaccination would be bad for my health, and I thought there wouldn’t be another chance to get it,” said Angelique after she was vaccinated. “If you have questions, talk to someone you trust and get their advice. It could be your teacher, a community health worker, a doctor or a nurse at any health center. They will be a good source of information for you,” advises Angelique to other Ni Nyampingas.

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We also met 13-year-old Germaine who received her first dose last year, but initially struggled with the idea. “I was really scared of the injection,” said Germaine who remembers the experience like it was yesterday. “When the headmaster told us that they would be vaccinating us against cervical cancer, I tried to avoid it until I could get over my fears.”

Despite being afraid, she was willing to get immunised because she knew how necessary the vaccine was. Germaine asked her grandmother, who is also a community health worker, for advice. She reassured her that the pain from injection only lasts a few seconds. When Germaine went to the health center, they confirmed what her grandmother had said. This helped her to conquer her fears and Germaine got vaccinated.

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Germaine told Ni Nyampinga that after the injection, she realised that she had been worried about something that wasn’t really that painful. “I got the shot, and the pain only lasted for a few seconds before it went away.”

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