Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Campaign in Eritrea

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Campaign in Eritrea

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Campaign in Eritrea

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Campaign in Eritrea

The Second Round of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Campaign in Eritrea was conducted from 8th to 12th May in Gash Barka and Northern Red Sea regions.

Although cervical cancer caused by HPV is life-threatening, it is a vaccine-preventable disease. HPV causes more than 95% of cervical cancer cases worldwide and is the most common cause of death of females due to cancer in nearly half of sub-Saharan Africa. The significance of cervical cancer and its impact on women in the modern world cannot be overstated. Fortunately, recent developments have led to the availability of a vaccination that can benefit all girls, if taken at the right age.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) believes that the only sure way of prevention and elimination of cervical cancer in Eritrea is the introduction of the HPV vaccine to its routine immunization program. In early 2022, the Expanded Program for the Immunization Department of the MoH (EPI), UNICEF, and Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) carried out several months’ of thorough planning activities. These efforts led to the successful launching of the first round of HPV Multi- Aged Cohort (MAC) vaccination campaign that was conducted from 21 to 25 November 2022. The campaign aimed to vaccinate 300,000 girls aged 9-14 throughout Eritrea.

According to the information from the MoH, the first round of the HPV vaccination campaign carried out in November 2022 was a resounding success. MoH collaborated with UNICEF, GAVI, and the Ministry of Education to make the necessary arrangements beforehand. With an objective to achieve nationwide coverage target of 95%, despite facing challenges in accessing some remote villages, they were able to secure an impressive 93% coverage rate, which is commendable to this day.

The second round of HPV-MAC vaccination campaign was implemented in two phases in 2023. The first phase was carried out in May for the regions of Gash Barka, Northern Red Sea, and Southern Red Sea. The second phase was carried out from May to June for the regions of Central, Debub, and Anseba. This revised strategy was developed based on the lessons learned from the first round of the HPV campaign and by considering the climatic conditions of the six regions of the Eritrea and the fact that it is the end of the school year.

Mr. Tedros Yihdego, an EPI general manager at MoH said, “We have gained significant experience from the first round HPV Campaign. Our micro-planning efforts have been carried out in all zones and sub-zones throughout the country. Additionally, we have evaluated our strengths and weaknesses from the previous campaign to improve our approach moving forward. The district-level task force is now better equipped to handle the second round of HPV vaccination campaign. The medical teams are fully prepared to administer the vaccine to all the girls who were previously targeted in the first round of vaccination. Additionally, they are ready to vaccinate those who missed the first dose of the vaccine and those who have come of age and are ready to take their first dose.”

The vaccination program was said to be more challenging in regions such as Gash Barka due to its large population and high percentage of school-aged girls who are eligible for vaccines and attend school, with over 65% falling in this category. In addition to the large population, hot and sticky weather conditions force schools in Northern and Southern Red Sea regions to close early, in May, for summer break, making it challenging to reach these girls with vaccinations. To address this issue, a vaccination campaign was scheduled to ensure that the girls receive the necessary vaccines before the school year ends.

Medical teams provide orientation to young girls, fitting the profile of vaccination regarding the HPV campaign before they receive their vaccination. This ensures that they are well informed about the campaign and its benefits. Despite the challenges posed by the large population, the Medical Management Team of the region has successfully executed the second round of HPV vaccination campaign through effective planning, resource allocation, and organization.

The task force established at national and sub-national level for the first round of the HPV campaign was instrumental in ensuring success of the second round by planning, implementing, and supervising the campaign, as well as raising awareness among the public. In addition to the existing pressure, another factor has emerged during the second round of the HPV campaign in Eritrea. This factor is the celebration of Eritrea’s 32nd Independence Day Anniversary on May 24th, which involved girls within the eligible age group for the vaccine to get ready for performances to be shown at events held throughout the country.

Young girls who have been vaccinated have given their testimonies on their awareness of the vaccine, urging other girls to get vaccinated. Rita Shebun, a Duta Junior and Elementary School student, said, “I have heard of cervical cancer from the elders at my village. I am acutely aware of the dangers that this disease poses to women who are unfortunate to be affected by it. I am here today to take my second dose of the vaccination. This vaccine has been proven to be highly effective in preventing cervical cancer, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have it free of charge. Thanks to initiatives that provide these vaccinations at no cost, girls like me can take proactive steps to safeguard our health and wellbeing.”

GAVI’s support of the HPV vaccine is playing a crucial role in ensuring the health of adolescent girls in Eritrea by protecting them against cervical cancer. Many young students all over the country have benefited from the vaccine.

Thanks to the efforts of GAVI and its partners, more and more young girls are being protected against this deadly disease, giving them a brighter and healthier future.

The initiative is known to be a significant step towards preventing cervical cancer in Eritrea.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Ministry of Information, Eritrea.