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Girls today, women tomorrow: An HPV vaccine sets a new course for women and girls in Cabo Verde


Anyah Spencer Maia and Victoria Roberts Gonçalves Gomes, age 10 stand side-by-side facing the camera wearing face masks.
Caption: Anyah and Victoria, 10-year-old girls, became the first children vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV).
Photo: UN Cabo Verde

Anyah Spencer Maia and Victoria Roberts Gonçalves Gomes—both age 10—marked an important moment in Cabo Verde. Both girls, Anhya and Victoria, received the first dose of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, officially introduced into the national vaccination calendar. 

Cabo Verde has recently introduced a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) for children and adolescents.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Security, there will be 4,900 girls, aged 10, who will be vaccinated during this first phase. The objective is to broaden this age group to include adolescent girls up to 13 years old. The current vaccine requires two doses for effective protection. 

The human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted through sexual contact, is responsible for 70 per cent (%) of cervical cancer cases registered worldwide. 

Prioritizing universal access to vaccines

“Joint efforts to prioritize and sustain universal access to vaccines to help reduce mortality, morbidity and disabilities undoubtedly help countries to achieve long-term goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—taking into account the health sector as well as the economic and development areas”, stated the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations system in Cabo Verde, Ana Graça, during her speech at the launch event, hosted by the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva. 

Cabo Verde has set an example by identifying policies and health outreach strategies, in line with global and regional initiatives aiming to manage and/or eradicate of vaccine-preventable diseases, which would entail achieving well-recognized and significant results such as a vaccination coverage rate above 95% among children. 

Vicoria Gomes sits in a chair, wearing a face mask as she receives the HPV vaccine on her left arm, while a woman stands to her right of her providing moral support.

Caption: Victoria Gomes receives the HPV vaccination. It marks the official introduction into the national vaccination calendar.

Photo: UN Cabo Verde

At the ceremony, which also launched the vaccination against hepatitis B among adults—including health technicians and caregivers—and the child and adolescent health guide, the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva, stressed that:

“Protecting and taking care of children is to safeguard the future of a nation; and the healthier they are, the more progress we will make." He added vaccinations will help to"save lives, support families in need and impart more confidence in the future." 

Facing the challenges ahead together

Fully financed by the Government of Cabo Verde —through the State Budget—the vaccination campaign that will begin in April 2021 includes collaborations with UNICEF and other partners. 

A nurse faces away from the camera as she prepares the first dose of the HPV vaccine.

Caption: A nurse prepares the first dose of the HPV vaccine.

Photo: UN Cabo Verde

Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer. WHO has been notifying the public about the objectives and goals set by this strategy, which envisions that by 2030, all countries will be able to achieve 90% HPV vaccine coverage, 70% screening coverage, and access to cervical cancer treatment for 90% of affected people, including access to palliative care. 

The strategy was launched at a particularly difficult and challenging time, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has caused several countries to endure an interruption in vaccination, screening and treatment services; the closure of borders that reduced the availability of supplies; new barriers that prevent many women, particularly in rural areas, from travelling to referral centres for treatment; and school closures that have interrupted existing vaccination programmes. According to Ana Graça,

“it is essential that countries can continue to ensure that vaccination, screenings and treatments continue to happen safely and with all necessary precautions.” 
 

Produced by UN Cabo Verde. Written by Anita Pinto, Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UN Cabo Verde. Translation by Carolina Lorenzo, Development Coordination Office. To learn more, visit: https://caboverde.un.org/

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United Nations Children’s Fund
WHO
World Health Organization

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