Ethiopia to vaccinate over 1.8 million girls against human papillomavirus as part of drive to prevent cervical cancer
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign targeting 1.8 million 14-year-old girls in nine regions is underway between 10 and 22 January. Vaccines are administered in schools and health facilities for two cohorts. More than 866,000, 14-year-old girls are getting the first dose while 970,000 who received the first dose six months ago, are getting the second dose during this campaign. Two doses of HPV vaccine are required for full protection against the human papillomavirus which causes cervical cancer.
WHO Ethiopia Immunization Officer Dr Mekonnen Admasu explained that girls should get the HPV vaccine prior to possible exposure to the human papillomavirus. He underscored that parents and guardians should ensure their daughters get the vaccine at the right age to avoid infection with the virus that could later cause cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer develops in a woman's cervix – the entrance to the uterus. Almost all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to infection with high-risk human papillomavirus, an extremely common virus transmitted through sexual contact. Although most infections with HPV resolve spontaneously and cause no symptoms, persistent infection can cause cervical cancer in women. HPV vaccination is an effective primary approach for cervical cancer prevention.
Vaccination cards and tally sheets for the campaign were distributed to the regions by the Ethiopian Pharmaceuticals Supply Agency (EPSA). The Ministry of Health and regional health bureaus coordinated the social mobilization and communication efforts for the campaign in collaboration with immunization partners.
Sensitization workshops were conducted for media professionals, representatives from the education sector, teachers’ associations, immunization partners, and public relations officers of health bureaus. Toll-free health hotline call center staff were also oriented on the vaccine to be able to accurately respond to queries. TV spots are being broadcast on national TV, messages are broadcast in regional media outlets and through posters and flyers.
The HPV vaccine was introduced in Ethiopia in December 2018 targeting 14-year-old girls. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has been leading the vaccine rollout and conduct of the vaccination in collaboration with regional health bureaus and the education sector, key stakeholders, and immunization partners such as WHO and UNICEF. WHO Ethiopia has deployed its central and field staff to supervise and monitor the vaccination campaign in all implementing regions.
Vaccines for the campaign were acquired and rolled out with support from GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. Gavi has been donating the HPV vaccines to Ethiopia since 2018.