ERITREA— The Expanded Program for the Immunization Department of the Ministry of Health (MoH) Eritrea, in partnership with several development partners has conducted a large-scale HPV Multi-Aged Cohort (HPV-MAC) vaccination campaign.

The second round of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccination Campaign in Eritrea was conducted in the Central, Debub, and Anseba regions.

In early 2022, the Expanded Program for the Immunization Department of the MoH (EPI), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and the Global Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) carried out several months of thorough planning activities.

These efforts led to the successful launching of the first round of the HPV-MAC vaccination campaign that was conducted in 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 a 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 the 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.

Despite facing challenges in accessing some remote villages, they were able to secure an impressive 93% coverage rate, which is commendable to this day.

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.”

Yihdego added that the EPI has evaluated its strengths and weaknesses from the previous campaign to improve its approach moving forward.

Furthermore, the district-level task force was better equipped to handle the second round of the HPV vaccination campaign and medical teams were fully prepared to administer the vaccine to all the girls who were previously targeted in the first round of vaccination.

GAVI notes that supporting the HPV vaccine is playing a crucial role in ensuring the health of adolescent girls in Eritrea by protecting them against cervical cancer.

Moreover, many young students all over the country have benefited from the vaccine and 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.

Eritrea’s bold efforts to the 90-70-90 WHO target to end cervical cancer by 2030

In 2020, the World Health Organization approved a strategy aimed at eliminating cervical cancer worldwide within generations. 

The Global Strategy identifies the following threshold: cervical cancer would no longer be a public health problem when all countries reach an annual incidence rate of 4 cases per 100,000 women or less.

WHO estimates that achieving and sustaining the 90:70:90 targets will avert 74 million new cases of cervical cancer and 62 million deaths in 78 low- and middle-income countries in the coming decades. 

Moreover, WHO also reports that 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 Eritrea MOH efforts have though met hurdles more so 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.

The MOH notes that medical teams provide orientation to young girls, fitting the profile of vaccination regarding the HPV campaign before they receive their vaccination.

Despite the challenges posed by the large population, the Medical Management Team of the region has successfully executed the second round of HPV vaccination campaigns through effective planning, resource allocation, and organization.

The task force established at the national and sub-national level for the first round of the HPV campaign was instrumental in ensuring the success of the second round by planning, implementing, and supervising the campaign, as well as raising awareness among the public.

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 in 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.”

Shebun noted that she was grateful for the opportunity to have it free of charge and also acknowledged the initiatives that provide these vaccinations at no cost since girls like her can take proactive steps to safeguard their health and wellbeing.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook.