Ethiopia immunizes over 2 million girls against human papillomavirus (HPV)
Ethiopia has just completed a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign targeting 2.4 million 14 year-old girls across the country in two cohorts. One cohort took HPV1 – the first dose of the vaccine, while the second cohort was vaccinated the second dose of the vaccine (HPV2), which they missed due to school closures in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccination was conducted in schools, communities and health facilities from January 25 to 29, 2021.
Advocacy, social mobilization and awareness creation was conducted in the weeks prior to the vaccination campaign. An expert panel discussion was held at national level, followed by sensitization workshops in five selected regions. Messages were broadcast on the benefits of the HPV vaccine through national, regional and community media (TV and radio), and on educational TV channels as well as in schools to ensure high vaccine uptake.
WHO provided technical and logistical support to the campaign. WHO central and regional teams provided technical support in monitoring and supportive supervision for quality assurance. Nine additional consultants deployed by WHO worked with the zonal health departments from planning to implementation of the vaccination campaign.
“The benefits of vaccinating girls against human papillomavirus infection is not even debatable,” said Mr Enyew Belay, the Maternal and Child Health Care (MCH) unit head at Goro Health Center, who was in mission as part of the HPV vaccinators team at Goro Primary School in Addis Ababa. “In Goro Health Center, identifying and treating early cervical cancer is one of our key activities. Vaccinating girls prior to sexual debut will protect them from this cancer.”
Certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) cause cervical cancer, which is the second most common cancer in Ethiopia, presenting a significant health threat to women. WHO recommends that adolescents, principally girls aged between nine and 14 get two doses of HPV vaccine to prevent infection with HPV, the second dose about six to 12 months after the first one.
HPV vaccine was introduced in Ethiopia in December 2018, targeting 14-year-old girls. The Ethiopian Ministry of Health has been leading the rollout and conduct of the vaccination in collaboration with regional health bureaus and the education sector, key stakeholders, and different partners including WHO, UNICEF, CHAI, PATH, Jhpiego, Girls Effect and Save the Children. The vaccines were acquired through the support of GAVI, the Vaccines Alliance.