A vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is pictured at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle

Gauteng Member of the Executive Council for Health and Wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko urged all parents in South Africa to give consent for vaccinating young girls to fight against cervical cancer with the help of the HPV vaccine.

Nkomo-Ralehoko has appealed to parents, caregivers and legal guardians to sign the consent form - if they have not done so already - to protect young girls in the country.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer, leading to death among females in South Africa, especially those who are between 15 to 44. However, breast cancer remains at the top.

More than 70% of the cases of cervical cancer are caused by the infection of the cervix by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is transmitted via sexual acts. The Gauteng Department of Health revealed that South Africa witnesses 5,000 new cases every year and most of them are fatal.

"In order to ensure that girls are and remain protected against cervical cancer later in life, it is important that they get the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 and 15, before they are sexually active," the department said, SA News reported.

The department noted that to prevent such cases, it is running the HPV vaccination first-round campaign in all public primary and special schools in Gauteng, starting Feb. 5 to March 20.

The campaign aims to vaccinate girls of Grade 5, who are aged nine and above with a single dose of the Cervarix HPV Vaccine.

"We wish to appeal to those who had not signed the consent to think about the long-term implications of not having their children immunized. By giving consent, you are taking a responsible step to ensure that we save the future of our girls, a single dose at a time," Nkomo-Ralehoko said.

The previous vaccination drive was held in September last year, where a total number of 74,359 girls got vaccinated out of 87,910 with a second dose of vaccine.

Vereeniging-based 39-year-old mother Matshidiso Luta, a cervical cancer survivor and has a nine-year-old daughter, said that she was happy to sign the consent form.

"I feel very blessed and relieved knowing that my daughter will get the HPV vaccine to protect her against cervical cancer. I do not want to see her go through the same stressful, difficult, and painful time I went through during my battle with the disease," Luta said.

The consent form is circulated under the Integrated School Health Program (ISHP) and will stay valid for an entire year.