Namibia embraces new development in the fight against cervical cancer

Niël Terblanché

In a significant move towards improving public health, the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) in Namibia recently convened a critical stakeholders’ meeting to discuss the introduction of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

The meeting, which brought together key participants, stakeholders, and development partners, aimed to set the stage for the rollout of the vaccination program.

A Crucial Intervention

The Acting Executive Director of the MoHSS, Taimi Amaambo said during the meeting that the introduction of the HPV vaccine program in Namibia comes at a time when there is overwhelming support at all levels.

“Cervical cancer ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women in the country, and it is the third most common cancer among women aged 15 to 44 years. The HPV vaccine offers the best chance of protection against HPV-related cancers and genital warts when administered before individuals become sexually active,” she said.

Namibia has been proactive in addressing cervical cancer. The National Technical Working Group is actively involved in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the National Cancer Control Plan.

“This plan encompasses various strategic activities, including primary prevention, early detection, diagnostics, treatment, and palliative care for cervical cancer,” she added.

Non-governmental organizations, such as the Cancer Association of Namibia (CAN), #Be Free Campaign, Society for Family Health (SFH), and Namibia Planned Parenthood Association (NAPPA), are contributing to complementary efforts for cancer prevention, screening, and treatment as part of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health.

She said that the MoHSS initiated the process of introducing the HPV vaccine into the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) through extensive consultations and advocacy activities, as well as financial commitment from the government and technical support from development partners and ever since 2018, the initiative gained tangible momentum.

In 2022, the Ministry approved the inclusion of the HPV vaccine in the Routine Immunization Schedule, targeting girls aged 9 to 14 years. Subsequently, the establishment of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) in May 2023, with its scientific Evidence to Recommendation (EtR) process, provided strong recommendations for the introduction of HPV vaccines in this age group.

“To ensure the success of this national endeavour, the ministry calls upon various stakeholders, including line Ministries, partners, political and traditional leaders, NGOs, the media, and the community, to actively participate in developing and implementing a responsive roadmap,” she said.

Amaambo said that the unique features of HPV vaccines which include the need for new program delivery approaches and the involvement of multiple stakeholders, call for a roadmap that should prioritize advocacy, information dissemination, health promotion, innovative delivery models, partnerships, monitoring and evaluation, as well as financial stewardship and commitment.

According to Amaambo, the ministry acknowledged that addressing cervical cancer is a multi-sectoral task that requires collaboration among all partners and stakeholders. She added that by working collectively, Namibia aims to reduce cancer-related mortality and morbidity, with a primary focus on increasing access to HPV vaccines for girls aged 9 to 14 years. “This critical intervention signifies a major step forward in the fight against cervical cancer in Namibia, and the Ministry is fully committed to its success. The cooperation and support of all involved are essential in delivering this very important program efficiently to the country’s young girls,” she said.

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