The GAVI Alliance's decision to include vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in their aid programmes and the recent agreement on a low price for the vaccine are two key factors that have led the authorities in about ten countries to take the first steps towards implementing nationwide HPV vaccination programmes. In Mozambique, the authorities have also launched the PapVac project, a study that will run in parallel with their GAVI-supported pilot HPV vaccination programme. The PapVac study will identify and investigate the factors critical to the proper design of a strategy for introducing the vaccine into the country as a whole. The factors under study include the age of sexual initiation among adolescents, perceptions in local communities and the attitudes of health and education professionals regarding cervical cancer and the measures used to control the disease.
The aim of the PapVac study—a joint initiative of the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)—is to assess the acceptability and feasibility of implementing an HPV vaccination programme for preadolescent girls (10 years of age) in a rural area (Manhiça) and an urban setting (KaMavota, in Maputo the capital city) in Mozambique. The study is being funded by Barcelona City Council's Department of International Cooperation.
Speeding up the introduction of vaccination against HPV (a virus that can cause various anogenital cancers) is crucial in the fight against cervical cancer, especially in areas where health systems lack sufficient resources for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of the cancer, and where other social factors and constraints hinder women's access to secondary prevention.
Mozambique has one of the highest incidences of cervical cancer in the world (42-60/100,000 women/year), and the disease is the most common type of cancer and the cancer with the highest mortality rate among women of all ages.