Promising Report on the Efficacy of HPV Vaccine Released Ahead of Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa

Posted by On February 24, 2016
Co-authored By Toun Olateju, MD, MPH and Crystal Cazier
School Girls in Molepolole District, Botswana, awaiting HPV vaccination: 2013
School Girls in Molepolole District, Botswana, awaiting HPV vaccination: 2013
Wednesday, 24 February, marks the beginning of an historic conference which will bring together government representatives, civil society organizations, and private sector partners for the first Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa. The conference is taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon interim CEO, Bill Steiger, and Country Program Manager, Erica Asante, will be in attendance, along with several of our partners. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon works in partnership with national government, non-governmental organizations, and corporate partners to support successful vaccination campaigns against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in Botswana and Zambia, and looks forward to joining the conversation to build momentum around the Global Vaccine Action Plan 2011-2020. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is responsible for causing at least 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. But, vaccinating young girls against the virus before sexual debut can drastically decrease the likelihood that they will develop cervical cancer as an adult. In lead-up to the conference, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a promising report online early this week in the journal Pediatrics. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the report indicates a reduction in the prevalence of the four most common HPV strains (HPV-6,-11,-16 and -18) when comparing data in the period prior to vaccine introduction (2003 – 2006) and the period after vaccine introduction (2009 – 2012) in the United States. The research revealed a 64 percent reduction in the national prevalence of the common HPV strains among young women between 14 and 19 years and a 34 percent drop in the prevalence in women between 20 and 24 years, despite a low national HPV vaccination coverage of 38 percent.[1] According to a recent report by UNICEF, about 14 Gavi-eligible countries have introduced HPV vaccination demonstration projects. However, of these countries, only Rwanda has scaled up to include HPV vaccination in its national immunization program. Botswana, a middle-income country supported by Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon but not eligible for Gavi support, is one of the few countries that has scaled up HPV vaccination nationally, solely on Government resources. As more governments in sub-Saharan Africa are considering adding HPV vaccination to the routine schedule, this report brings to light the need for comprehensive national immunization plans to include measurement of the impact of HPV vaccination on HPV prevalence in the population at risk within some years after nationwide introduction. Although various cost-effectiveness models for nationwide HPV vaccination have projected long-term benefits, to the best of our knowledge, no study has measured population-level impact after national HPV vaccination in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, mechanisms for appropriate target population forecasting, data collection and data mining systems should be an integral part of planning and implementation of national HPV vaccination programs. The ability to demonstrate population-level impact will validate the benefits of HPV vaccination as a proven primary prevention method for cervical cancer and will serve as evidence in advocating for acceptability and increased funding support for national cervical cancer prevention programs which are mostly in infancy across the sub-continent. Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon is dedicated to supporting governments and our implementing partners to continue to increase access to HPV vaccination as a preliminary step to the eradication of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. We encourage other organizations standing with us in this endeavor to join the larger community and call for progress by signing the Civil Society Declaration for Equitable Access to Immunization in Africa.   [1] Markowitz LE, Liu G, Hariri S, et al. Prevalence of HPV vaccination After Introduction of the Vaccination Program in the United States. Pediatrics. 2016; 137 (2): e20151968   Dr. Olateju is a Country Program Manager for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon. Crystal is the Assistant for Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon.