The Ministry of Health Launches HPV Multi-Age Cohort (MAC) Vaccination Campaign
With funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and in-country support from UNICEF, the campaign will target girls aged 9-14 years and will contribute towards the control of cervical cancer in Zambia
LUSAKA, 25 September 2023 – The Acting Minister of Health, Hon. Eng. Charles Milupi, MP has today launched the Human Papillomavirus Multi-Age Cohort (HPV MAC) Vaccination Campaign through a media briefing held at the Ministry of Infrastructure. The campaign will be conducted countrywide from Monday 25th September to Saturday 30th September 2023 and will target 1.42 million girls aged 9 to 14 years.
“Cervical cancer is the most common cancer among women in Zambia and accounts for most deaths resulting from cancer in the country. Current estimations show that by 2050 there will be more than 1 million deaths from cervical cancer globally and that more than 90% of those deaths will be in developing countries such as Zambia. But we still can stem the tide on those estimations – if we act now to ensure that every girl aged 9 to 14 is afforded access to the HPV vaccine. Thanks to the generous support of our partners, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO and UNICEF, the Government of the Republic of Zambia today launches this week-long vaccination campaign which will run in schools, health facilities and mobile vaccination centres targeting every eligible girl and contributing to the good health of our female population both now and into the future,” said the Acting Minister of Health.
HPV is a common infection that affects both men and women. It is primarily transmitted through sexual contact and can lead to a range of complications including cervical, penile, and colorectal cancer. Zambia records more than 3,000 new cervical cancer cases annually with over 1,900 cases resulting in death over the same interval. However, cervical cancer is preventable and curable when detected early and managed effectively. Thus, through the country’s Comprehensive National Cervical Cancer Control Strategy, the Ministry of Health seeks to expand access to prevention of new HPV infections, contributing towards the control of cervical cancer in Zambia.
“Along with cervical cancer screening and cancer treatment, HPV vaccination is a key component in the fight against new HPV infections and the development of cervical cancer. The HPV Multi-Age Cohort vaccine that is being rolled out in this week’s campaign will give Zambian girls a real chance to enjoy a full life free of the very present threat of HPV infection and cervical cancer. I therefore implore all parents and guardians to encourage their girls aged 9 to 14 years to take advantage of this opportunity and receive the vaccine which will be offered predominantly within schools, but also at health facilities and other mobile vaccination centres,” said Dr Penelope Campbell, UNICEF Representative in Zambia. “The protective window that the vaccination provides at this age, closes with exposure to HPV infections later in a girl’s life, so we must act to save tomorrow’s women today.”
Between 2019 and 2022 only 73 per cent of girls aged 14 and 15 years received at least one HPV dose and less than half of those eligible as per recommended guidelines received a second vaccine dose. Limited access to HPV vaccination is largely attributed to inadequate awareness of the benefits of HPV vaccinations, insufficient vaccine supply and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on school-centred vaccinations due to pandemic lockdowns and subsequent school closures.
Gavi, working in collaboration with its Alliance partners including UNICEF, began supporting countries with financing for HPV vaccines and technical support in 2012. Recognising the critical opportunity to reach more girls with improved levels of vaccine supply, new vaccines being produced and renewed momentum towards accelerating efforts to prevent cervical cancer, the Gavi Board approved the revitalisation of the Alliance’s HPV vaccine programme with an investment of over US$ 600 million by end of 2025. With the additional funding in place, the Alliance has set an ambitious goal to reach over 86 million girls by 2025, aiming to avert over 1.4 million future deaths from cervical cancer. To date Gavi-supported programmes have fully immunised more than 16 million girls.
“The HPV vaccine is one of the most impactful vaccines in Gavi’s portfolio and is highly effective at preventing cervical cancer. With today’s launch of the Multi-Age Cohort campaign, we have the opportunity to ensure all girls in Zambia – including those that have missed out during the pandemic and out-of-school girls – are protected against developing a devastating disease that disproportionately kills women in the region,” said Thabani Maphosa, Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “I urge all communities to support eligible adolescent girls to go out and get the HPV vaccine.”
The 2023 HPV MAC Vaccination Campaign will provide health education and HPV vaccination for girls aged 9 to 14 years in schools, health facilities and various community outreach centres across the country. In doing so, the campaign hopes to support the national strategy which aims to ensure that Zambia implements the World Health Assembly ‘Global Strategy for Cervical Cancer Elimination’ by 2023 whose goals include:
- 90 per cent of girls are fully vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) by the age of 15 years.
- 70 per cent of eligible women are screened for cervical cancer by the age of 35, and again by the age of 45.
- 90 per cent of women with pre-cancer lesions are treated and 90 per cent of women with invasive cancer managed.
UNICEF is a founding partner of the Gavi Alliance, one of four permanent Gavi board members, and a strategic partner within the Alliance. UNICEF’s work with Gavi has been highly synergistic, enabling the partnership to expand its reach. In Zambia, as a Core Alliance partner, UNICEF supports the government in planning for, implementation and evaluation of several areas including vaccines and immunisation supplies management, cold chain equipment support, advocacy communication and social mobilisation, and strategies and immunisation equity-focused programme management.
About Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organisations that fund Gavi’s work here.
Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 1 billion children – and prevented more than 17.3 million future deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 lower-income countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningococcal and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation, above all the zero-dose children who have not received even a single vaccine shot. The Vaccine Alliance employs innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children in Zambia, visit www.unicef.org/zambia.