Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Girl Effect have joined forces with a four-year partnership to increase uptake of HPV and routine vaccines in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Working in collaboration with the Ministries of Health in both countries, Gavi and Girl Effect will develop youth-centered behaviour change communication to create demand for vaccination amongst young people and address the gender barriers that limit vaccine uptake.

Announced on-stage on Saturday 24 September at the Global Citizen Festival in Accra, Ghana, the $8 million Commitment is part of a global campaign to drive actions, policy and financial commitments from citizens, governments, corporates, civil society and philanthropic leaders. The 2022 Global Citizen Festival called on world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to step up and invest $600 million into the future of women and girls, close $10 billion climate financing shortfall, deliver $500 million to help African farmers respond to the global food crisis, and provide urgent relief for debts. Marking its 10th anniversary year, the Festival culminated in $2.4billion being committed to End Extreme Poverty.

HPV vaccination provides a unique opportunity to invest in the health of girls and encourage them to actively protect their health in early adolescence and in the future. The vaccine is safe and highly effective at protecting girls against cervical cancer, yet myths, rumours and socio-cultural barriers limit girls’ uptake even when it is readily available. School closures and supply issues during the pandemic have contributed to a major decline in coverage for the first dose of the HPV vaccine in lower-income countries. As of 2021, only 13% of girls in the world are fully protected and urgent action is required to improve uptake and vaccinate missed girls. Establishing the root cause of barriers to vaccine uptake is critical to ensure that young people understand the importance of routine immunisation and ensure no child is left behind.

Jess Posner Odede, CEO of Girl Effect, said: “Girls often assume that health services are not intended for them and seek healthcare only when they are ill. But if a girl understands the value of her health and her first experience of a service is positive – like the HPV vaccine – this can lead to her making positive health choices for herself and for her family in the future. We know that when girls are supported to take control of their health, this leads to healthier families, communities and future generations.”

Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said: “Closing the global vaccine equity gap for HPV has to rate as one of the highest priorities in immunisation today.”

Girl Effect’s youth brands in Tanzania and Ethiopia are enjoyed by millions of young people via TV, social media, radio, magazine content and club networks. Using media formats such as chatbots, radio and television dramas or talk shows, content will bust-myths, fight misinformation and inspire conversation about the importance of vaccination programmes and health more broadly.

This work builds on Gavi and Girl Effect’s existing partnership between 2016-2020 to develop an evidence-based model to reach girls at scale and drive demand for the HPV vaccine in Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania. Read more about its impact here.