Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is poised to meet its target of vaccinating all girls with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, thanks to the launch of a new landmark program.
The ‘Mwanzo Mwema’ (Beautiful Beginning) campaign focuses on increasing the uptake of HPV and routine vaccines in Tanzania. It is a collaboration between Girl Effect, an international non-profit that uses media and technology to empower girls, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Bugando Medical Institution and research expert on vaccination Prof. Stephen Mshana stated that the initiative has come at the right time, complementing government efforts because it will be implemented in regions where HPV vaccine uptake is very low and will go hand in hand with the governmment’s vision.
Girl Effect Tanzania’s Programme Lead, Ms. Rita Mbeba, said that by collaborating with various stakeholders, they will implement the Mwanzo Mwema initiative in Katavi, Mtwara, Shinyanga, and Lindi.
“We are going to develop content to create awareness for girls on the importance of the HPV vaccine. Mostly missing are people at the grassroots level, we are going to remote areas to provide awareness to girls and communities so that they can have a good beginning,” she said.
Ms. Rita added that in 2020/21, Girl Effect implemented a cervical cancer and HPV campaign, which had a big impact in creating awareness on HPV vaccination and its importance to 14-year-old girls.
“We are working with partners and existing structures. The most important thing is to ensure that girls get the knowledge in advance. In collaboration with the government, we intend to reach the unreached communities with information about the HPV vaccine. We talk to parents, boys, and girls to ensure the message is addressed to various types of people,” she said.
Fatuma, a young girl who received the first dose, explains how she managed to go for the second HPV vaccine.
“When I started engaging with the Tujibebe platform, my awareness about the benefits and safety of the HPV vaccine improved significantly. If I did not engage myself in the Tujibebe platform, I could no have taken the second dose. I can testify that I took the second HPV dose after getting the knowledge on the vaccine through the Tujibebe platform,” she said.
Immunization and Vaccination department Program Manager of Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI), Mr. Florian Tinuga, said that the launch of Mwanzo Mwema will help to reduce the number of cervical cancer patients, address the knowledge gap, and increase HPV vaccine demand and uptake.
“HPV vaccine remains the most effective intervention to address such a burden. However, girls missed the second HPV vaccine. Currently, the government has allowed single dose as full uptake of HPV vaccine to girls aged 9-14,” he said.
According to him, joint collaborations are required to invest in vaccines to avoid cervical cancer.
“Stakeholder engagement is required to invest in HPV advocacy, to strengthen awareness on grassroots level. As most marginalized people lack information on vaccine-related issues,” he said.
The launch of Mwanzo Mwema is a significant step forward in Tanzania’s efforts to eliminate cervical cancer. By working together, Girl Effect, Gavi, the government, and other stakeholders can ensure that all girls have the opportunity to protect themselves from this preventable disease.
Originally posted here.