A partnership has begun between Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL) and MERCK &Co, an American Multinational Pharmaceutical company for the conduct of social mobilization to increase the demand for the Human Papilloma or HPV Vaccine for the prevention of Cervical Cancer.
PHIL in fulfillment of the partnership is currently working with the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) to conduct the social mobilization and community engagement exercises to increase the demand for the HPV vaccine in the country.
Cervical Cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which is the leading cause of cancer found in Liberian women between the ages of 15 to 45-years. Studies found that there are over 100 types of HPV, with at least 14 known to cause cancer.
According to WHO, types 16 and 18 are mostly responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in the world. HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer, which is leading cancer in Liberia women between the ages of 15 and 45. Studies found that there are over 100 types of HPV, with at least 14 known to cause cancer. According to the WHO, types 16 and 18 are mostly responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.
In November of 2019, the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health’s Expanded Program on Immunization with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance launched the HPV Vaccine as part of the routine immunization services for girls at the age of 9 to prevent Cervical Cancer.
Given that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, the vaccine is highly effective when administered to children. Currently, the government is prioritizing girls that are nine-years-old.
The vaccination is ongoing at all public and private health facilities in the 15 counties that do offer immunization services and is being administered twice, one after every six months for girls at the age of nine.
The need for the ongoing mobilization and community engagements cannot be overemphasized as the shutdown of schools coupled with the fear of visiting facilities because of COVID-19 among Liberians has affected the demand generation activities around this vaccine.
PHIL executive Director Madam Joyce L. Kilikpo believes that the support from MERCK came at a critical time as all efforts are being made by governments and partners in ensuring important services such as routine immunization is not affected badly due to the COVID19 outbreak as was seen during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015.
As was with the lockdown requirement, planned health facility outreach activities and mass campaigns were all suspended as such, the country is seeing a reduction in routine immunization coverage particularly, the HPV Vaccine which was introduced barely three months before the Coronavirus outbreak.
“We cannot afford to let the history repeat itself as was with Ebola. With lessons learned from Ebola, our focus is again community engagement for the uptake of routine immunization services – it is at the front and center of what we do during this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Joyce L. Kilikpo, the Executive Director said. She thanked MERCK& Co for the partnership and support.
Merck and Co, also known as Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD PTY D) outside the US and Canada is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company is providing financial support to PHIL for the social mobilization and community engagement exercise.
Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL) was conceived in 2011 by Liberian Health Professionals living in the diaspora to contribute toward the effectiveness of the health care delivery system of Liberia through leadership, partnership, innovation, advocacy and empowerment.
PHIL management team consists of a group of qualified, competent, committed and dedicated Liberians health professionals with a wealth of experiences acquired through working with national and international development organizations including (the Red Cross, International Medical Crops, the World Health Organization, United Nations Children Fund and Medicine Sans Frontier Belgium) in countries like Haiti, Sudan, Pakistan and Liberia among others, they have good understanding on implementing donor funded projects (USAID, European Union and Global fund).
Despite the relative success of the 2007-11 National Health Plan, Liberia continues to have very poor health indicators – especially among women and girls in rural areas – with a heavy burden of infectious disease. PHIL program will address some of these challenges through capacity building of community-based health workers and partnership.