Sierra Leone integrates HPV vaccines into existing routine immunization

SIERRA LEONE – The Government of Sierra Leone has introduced Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines into the national immunization schedule in a bid to protect adolescent girls from cervical cancer.

The introduction of the HPV vaccine in Sierra Leone comes after several months of thorough planning led by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation’s National Immunisation Programme.

The Government has also kickstarted a new HPV vaccine campaign with the long-term goal of reaching 153,991 10-year-old girls who will each receive two doses over a six-month period.

The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), in partnership with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO), will administer the HPV vaccines nationwide through schools.

The campaign also provides an important opportunity to expand education and outreach to promote uptake of cervical cancer screening and treatment services by older women.

The Government of Sierra Leone wholeheartedly welcomes the introduction of the HPV vaccination drive,” said Dr Austin Demby, Minister of Health and Sanitation.

He further urged the general public to support young girls to be vaccinated in order to prevent them from cervical cancer and its consequences during the course of their entire lives.

In addition, the introduction of HPV vaccine is one of the key strategies that the Government is implementing toward cervical cancer elimination in the country.

Thabani Maphosa, the Managing Director of Country Programmes at Gavi said that the launch is a first step towards protecting girls in Sierra Leone from cervical cancer and providing them with a better chance of living longer, healthier lives and reaching their full potential.

To ensure the effective introduction of the vaccine, Gavi is supporting the procurement and installation of 463 sets of solar refrigerators to help strengthen cold chain systems and ensure that vaccines stay at optimal temperatures during shipping, storage, and delivery to vaccination points.

Supporting countries to catch up and improve HPV coverage is a critical priority Gavi moving forward and will require action on the demand- and supply-side. We look forward to working with our partners towards this goal,” he reaffirmed.

Furthermore, Sierra Leone joins more than 55 percent of the 194 WHO Member States that have introduced HPV vaccination into routine immunization programs as a key strategy to prevent mortality and morbidity due to cervical cancer.

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