HEADLINE, HEALTH

Timor-Leste to launch Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Campaign in july

Timor-Leste to launch Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Campaign in july

Image TATOLI/Antonio Daciparu

DILI, 05 june 2024 (TATOLI) – Timor-Leste will make a historic next step in the journey to support women and girls’ right to health, through protecting them against cervical cancer. This would be through the introduction of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine.

The Ministry of Health, supported by UNICEF and WHO, will launch a ground-breaking Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination campaign in Timor-Leste, on 22  july, in Ermera Municipality.

“UNICEF is proud to be a key partner of the Ministry of Health, in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine introduction, which is an important milestone in the country’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal 3,” said Bilal Aurang Zeb Durrani, UNICEF Country Representative to Timor-Leste, at the occasion of the Institutional Advocacy meeting on HPV vaccine introduction with Health development partner and key stakeholder, in Dili, on tuesday.

He said that the vaccine will be introduced and administered to girls aged 11 years of age: “By vaccinating girls at this early age, we can significantly reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer by nearly 90%, this deadly disease later in life, thereby also reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases in the country, which unfortunately is on the rise.”

Durrani congratulated the Ministry of Health and partners for the ongoing dedication and collaboration, which will soon make Timor-Leste one of the 140 countries, which is providing a safe, scientifically proven means of preventing cervical cancer in Timor-Leste.

“UNICEF has already procured 41,100 doses of the HPV vaccine which arrived in the country on 20th  may 2024 with support from GAVI, global vaccine alliance and Ministry of Health.  Additional 38,370 more doses are also being sourced as we speak with generous support from Government of Australia for HPV catch up campaign targeting 12-14 years female,” Durrani explained.

He said that for the rollout of the vaccines to be effective, extensive social mobilization activities through advocacy meetings, media engagement, and the development of IEC materials are important. This will help people to be more aware that this new vaccine has been added to the immunisaiton schedule in the country and will help to dispel rumours and misconceptions which often come with the introduction of new vaccines: “We are also aware of fears of adverse effects attached to any vaccine; these fears can also be allayed through social mobilization activities and training of the health workers on the management of individual who develop any adverse effect following vaccination (AEFI).”

“UNICEF is therefore happy to partner with Ministry of Health on the various social mobilization actions, which will complement the HPV introduction.  Today’s meeting is the first of a series of 65 meetings, which will be held in 14 Municipalities,” Durrani added.

From 12 – 30 april 2024, UNICEF supported an online community perception survey on HPV vaccine introduction, whose preliminary findings  reveal significant gaps in knowledge about cervical cancers and HPV vaccines. For example, from the survey showed that 32 percent of respondents may require more information on HPV vaccination for them to make well-informed decisions for their eligible family members.

UNICEF appreciates the support of GAVI, DFAT and other partners, who continue to provide financial and technical support to ensure the effective planning and rollout of the HPV vaccine in Timor-Leste and supporting the country to be part of the global movement to eliminate cervical cancer through the introduction of the HPV Vaccine.

The Director of Education and Health Promotion of the Ministry of Health urged all parents to allow their children to recve the vaccine, as it would help them in the fight against cervical cancer: “HPV vaccine is safe and effective at preventing HPV-related infections and cancers.”

She reiterated that the vaccine will be administered to girls between the ages of 11 and 14 in schools, as well as to girls who don’t have the opportunity to go to school.

WHO said a single dose of the HPV vaccine offers solid protection against cervical cancer: “HPV Vaccination is part of a comprehensive approach to prevention and elimination of Cervical Cancer.”

Cervical cancer is preventable and curable if detected early and treated adequately. And yet, it is one of the most common causes of cancer-related death among women globally as well as in Timor-Leste.

It is estimated that in Timor-Leste, annually 10 cases of cervical cancer occur for 100,000 women and 6 women die per 100,000 women due to cervical cancer. This also indicates that around 60% of diagnosed cases are advanced cases.

 

Journalist: Camilio de Sousa

Editor: Filomeno Martins

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