Mauritius is moving a step ahead in its fight against cancer by extending vaccination against Human Papillomavirus to boys aged 9 to 15 years
Port Louis. 31 January 2023. Mauritius is moving a step ahead in its fight against cancer by extending the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme to boys aged 9 to 15 years old as well girls.
The national HPV communication campaign was launched on 13 January 2023 by the Health Minister, Dr the Hon kailesh Kumar Jagutpal and Dr Anne Ancia WHO Representative in Mauritius at the seats of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
The World Health Organization collaborated closely with the Ministry of Health and Wellness to produce four short videos on HPV as part of the sensitization campaign to inform the population of the benefits of HPV vaccination and the importance of vaccinating both boys and girls against HPV.
In his address, Dr Jagutpal said, “HPV vaccination is part of the National Cancer Control Programme 2022-2025 and had proven to be very effective in reducing the risk of HPV-related cancers.” He added, “vaccinating both boys and girls aged 9 to 15 years old against HPV is crucial to protect them later in life from certain types of cancers.” It is the main cause of cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men, and might as well cause head, neck and anus cancers in women and men, he further added.
Some75 officers of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, have been thus trained on this new vaccination programme. According to the Minister of Health and Wellness, the training of the health professionals is important as this is a new vaccination programme.
“Health professionals involved in the HPV vaccination programme should be able to provide the right information and they need to have a comprehensive knowledge on HPV vaccination to be able it to answer any questions parents might have regarding vaccination of boys”, said Dr the Hon Jagutpal.
The training has been focusing on the implementation of the campaign, the importance of HPV Vaccination, the cold chain maintenance and administration of HPV Vaccine and waste management, among others.
The Health Minister made an appeal to parents to have their sons and daughters vaccinated to protect them against developing cancer at a later stage of their life. Communicating the right information to parents is also very important, he added.
Mauritius kickstarted its National HPV Vaccination Programme in 2016 in both public and private schools for nine-year-old girls. The country has vaccinated more than 88 000 girls with Cervarix vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer, in line with WHO recommendations.
Dr Hon Jagutpal said the Nonavalent Vaccine being introduced will provide additional protection against HPV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases for both boys and girls. The Health Ministry will work in the close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology to vaccinate over 108,000 school children.
The WHO Representative in Mauritius, Dr A. Ancia said the vaccination of young boys and girls against HPV will not only contribute to the decrease of the incidence and prevalence of another communicable disease, but also in the elimination of cervical cancer.”
“As the WHO Representative and also as a simple mother of two adolescents, I call on each and every one to embrace this commendable initiative of the Ministry of Health to prevent our children against cancer later in life”, said Dr Ancia. She also added cervical cancer can be eliminated, as 99% of cases are the results of infection by sexually transmitted pathogens, the HPV, against which there is a vaccine.
Cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer in women, took the life of more than 310 000 women globally in 2018. It is expected to be the cause of the death of half a million women in 2030 only if actions like the one we launch today are not sufficiently pursued in the world. Cervical cancer particularly (85%) affects young women and mother of young children whose survival is subsequently jeopardized by the premature death of their mothers.
“HPV vaccination is the best way to protect our young but future generation against cervical and other cancer in a very simple and benign manner”, said Dr Ancia before adding,“today, by expanding this vaccination with the support of WHO and other partners, Mauritius is working towards the elimination of a cancer.”
The WHO Representative emphasized vaccination coupled with systematic screening of women with a high-performance test to early detect and treat precancerous form of the disease can radically decrease the incidence of cancer caused by the human papilloma virus.
“If we also managed to treat early form of cervical cancer and manage effectively the more invasive forms, we can drastically reduce the suffering and deaths caused by this Human papilloma virus”, concluded Dr Ancia before congratulating the country for this laudable initiative and reassuring everyone present of the WHO continued support.
Email: vythelingamv [at] who.int