Research

Lessons learnt during the national introduction of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programmes in 6 African countries: Stakeholders’ perspectives

L H Abdullahi, G D Hussey, C S Wiysonge, B M Kagina

Abstract


Background. Infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) significantly increases the risk of developing cervical cancer later in life. Therefore, globally, HPV vaccines targeted to pre-adolescent and adolescent girls have been on the rise since the licensure in 2006. However, the introduction of HPV vaccines has been relatively slow in Africa. At the end of 2016, only 8 of the 54 countries in Africa were reported to have introduced HPV vaccination at a national level. By 2019, the number of countries had grown marginally to 11.

Objectives. To investigate stakeholders’ perspectives on the experiences, challenges and lessons learnt during national HPV vaccine introduction in Africa.

Methods. A questionnaire was administered to selected participants from 8 African countries. These countries had successfully introduced HPV vaccination at a national level by the end of 2016. We used in-depth interviews and self-administered online questionnaires for data collection and analysis. Data are presented without naming the country or participants; therefore, readers will not be able to identify the results that are specific to individual countries. Narrative and thematic reporting were used to describe the results.

Results. We obtained results from 6 of the 8 targeted countries. The challenges reported during HPV vaccination programmes were: identifying the target population, using a school-based vaccine-delivery strategy, obtaining political support, the need to integrate HPV vaccination with existing school health programmes and engaging multiple stakeholders. These challenges were similar in all 6 countries. The lessons learnt were that a school-based delivery strategy is a successful approach for national HPV vaccination, and that identifying girls for vaccination at schools was less challenging if implemented through a class-based instead of an age-based approach.

Conclusions. Most African countries do not have established platforms to deliver vaccines to pre-adolescent and adolescent populations. The successful introduction of the HPV vaccine through school-based vaccination strategies in African countries may have created a platform to deliver other adolescent vaccines. The similarity of the study findings across the 6 participating countries further strengthens the need to document and disseminate the challenges and lessons learnt during HPV vaccine introduction in Africa. Documentation and dissemination of the challenges and lessons learnt are useful to other countries in Africa that plan to introduce an HPV vaccination programme, and possibly other adolescent vaccines.

 


Authors' affiliations

L H Abdullahi, African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), Nairobi, Kenya; and Vaccines for Africa Initiative, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G D Hussey, Vaccines for Africa Initiative, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town; and Division of Medical Microbiology, Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

C S Wiysonge, Cochrane South Africa, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town; and School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

B M Kagina, Vaccines for Africa Initiative, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town; and School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

HPV vaccine; Implementation; Immunisation programmes; School-based vaccination; Adolescents

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(6):525-531. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i6.14332

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-05-29
Date published: 2020-05-29

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