Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 3rd December, 2018: Ethiopia launched the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine today. The launch was held at Tesfa Kokeb Primary School in Lideta Sub-city of Addis Ababa and the Ministry of Health plans to vaccinate over one million girls who are 14 years of age. The vaccine will primarily be delivered through a school-based approach to reach all eligible girls in both private and public schools. Out of school girls will be able to access the vaccine at any health facility in all 9 regions and the two city administrations of the country.
A press conference was led by both H.E. Dr Amir Aman, Minister, and H.E. Dr Liya Tadesse, State Minister, Ministry of Health, and Former First Lady Mrs. Roman Tesfaye following the launching ceremony.
Mrs. Roman Tesfaye, Former First Lady and Ambassador for cancer prevention, speaking during the press conference said, “Treatment for cervical cancer is costly for both the government and the family of the patient. Thus the benefit that we will get by vaccinating girls who are at most risk is huge. The media has to play their role in raising public awareness to support this nationwide HPV introduction.”
H.E. Dr. Amir Aman, Minister, Ministry of Health, delivered the key note address during the launch and emphasized the safety and benefit of the HPV vaccine. “The HPV vaccine will be given for free and the vaccine has minimal side effects, thus I urge all 14 year old girls to take this vaccination.”
Dr Paul Mainuka, Acting WHO Ethiopia Representative in his remark expressed his gratitude for this significant achievement. “In Ethiopia, it has been estimated that about 7,000 cases and 5,000 deaths occur every year due to cervical cancer. The best way to protect our girls from acquiring HPV is by vaccinating them with the vaccine that we are here to launch today. Ethiopia is one of only a few African countries that have introduced HPV vaccine. We are lucky and fortunate to be at the forefront of African nations providing a safe and effective vaccine that can protect our girls from cervical cancer.”
Dr Mainuka further urged traditional and religious leaders and all stakeholders, including those outside of the health sector, to continue the support for HPV vaccine introduction nationwide by helping to mobilize parents and caregivers to allow their 14 year old girls to be vaccinated.
Other key speakers during the launch included: Ms Liya Wondwosen, Deputy Director for Maternal and Child Health Directorate of Ministry of Health, Ms Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative and Mr Sefa Werku, Tesfa Kokeb Primary School Director. All stressed that cervical cancer is a main cause of death among women in Ethiopia and encouraged parents not to miss this great opportunity to have their girls immunized.
The country had initially planned to introduce the HPV vaccine through the routine immunization program for roughly 6 million girls of 9-14 years of age. However, due to a global HPV vaccine shortage, the country is introducing the vaccine in a single age cohort (14 years old girls) in the first year of introduction and hopes to expand introduction to additional age cohorts in the second year and beyond based on the global availability of the vaccine. In the event that the vaccine shortage persists, the country will continue vaccinating 14 years old girls every year.