This session convened experts and participants from various institutions and sectors to share best practices in reaching the target population of 9-13 year old children
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer and the second most common cancer in women worldwide. Of the estimated 275,000 women who die each year from cervical cancer, more than 8 in 10 are from developing countries.
Currently, there are 2 safe and effective vaccines on the market. In response to multiple requests, the GAVI Alliance is supporting countries to gain experience with delivery of HPV vaccine to the non-traditional target population of 9-13 year old children.
This session convened experts and participants from various institutions and sectors to share best practices in reaching this non-traditional target population.
Participants observed that adolescent health is often neglected as it falls between child and woman’s health issues. The transition from child to adulthood is filled with physical and emotional changes and as the First Lady of Zambia, Dr. Christine Mwelwa Kaseba stated, “whatever happens in this transition is going to be magnified in adulthood.”
Close collaboration with the education sector at the planning and implementation stages is required to effectively target adolescent girls.
The importance of the bringing teachers into the delivery paradigm cannot be overstated both for their influence in schools as well as the community.
It was noted that in the past, the education sector was nominally involved in vaccination efforts (e.g., catch-up measles supplementation vaccination campaigns), mostly to organize students for vaccination.
With the implementation of HPV, a more enabled, proactive role is required and will necessitate that educators understand specific details related to this “anti-cancer vaccine” – the importance of the disease it prevents and the timing of vaccination.
Comprehensive, early communication with multiple stakeholders using appropriately targeted messages and social marketing is fundamental to pre-empt concerns and questions related to new vaccine introduction.
Working closely with religious establishments and peer educators were highlighted as important strategies to reaching target age girls not attending school.