MOZAMBIQUE—The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Mozambique has made significant efforts to reach as many girls as possible and achieve high vaccination coverage against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.

This is part of the country’s expanded immunization program, which included a catch-up campaign in April 2022, when schools resumed, to vaccinate eligible girls born in 2012 who had not yet received their first dose of the HPV vaccine.

The school-based vaccination program, where girls receive two doses separated by a six-month delay, is supplemented by different strategies to reach hard-to-reach girls, such as door-to-door visits, mobile outreach, and immunization at established facilities.

Mozambique has achieved remarkable success in a short amount of time, with administrative data from the Ministry of Health showing that the first dose is covered by more than 80% and the second dose by 40%.

According to the most recent WHO data, Mozambique has the sixth-highest premature mortality rate from cancer (10.4%).

More than 60% of incidents are among women, with cervical cancer accounting for more than a third (34.6%), followed by breast cancer (12.8%).

In 2018, the World Health Organization issued a call to action to eliminate cervical cancer globally by 2030, and Mozambique developed an HPV vaccination strategy for girls aged nine to fourteen years.

Due to complications posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination did not begin until 2021; however, the HPV vaccine has been part of the routine immunization protocol ever since.

Speaking at a vaccination drive, Aissa Cutane, a public health technician at the Habel Jafar Health Centre in Marracuene, confirmed that the school-based vaccination strategy has been very effective.

“It is easier to communicate the benefits to the girls, their families, the local community, and local health professionals when you take the service to the target group,” Cutane elaborated.

Cutane also highlighted that after parents have granted agreement, health personnel deliver sensitization messages to their children before administering vaccinations.

Instead of the children and their parents spending much time coming to the health units and standing in huge queues, the immunizations are provided swiftly and effectively.

On his part, Dr. Severin Ritter Von Xylander, WHO Representative in Mozambique, noted that while the start of HPV vaccination experienced delays, the achievements in the last two years show political will and commitment to the global elimination targets.

He assured the public that WHO will support the country to accelerate its actions so that they can eradicate the scourge of cervical cancer among women.

So far, WHO and its partners have committed to providing the HPV vaccine to 86 million girls worldwide by 2025.

This collaborative effort has led to the vaccine’s adoption in 27 nations and the formation of 34 screening programs in Africa alone.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia has been the latest African country to prescribe the HPV vaccine to be offered to girls between the ages of nine and 14 years before they become sexually active and are exposed to the virus that causes changes in the cervix that can lead to cancer.

Ethiopia introduced the vaccine in December 2018 for 14-year-old girls only; nevertheless, due to the global HPV vaccine scarcity, over 6.3 million girls in Ethiopia have received one dose.

Liberia has also been at the forefront of incorporating the HPV vaccine into routine immunization, in addition to other measures, such as cervical cancer screening and treatment, to address the cervical cancer threat.

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