Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of adolescents in the South African private health sector: Lessons from the HPV demonstration project in KwaZulu-Natal
In South Africa (SA), >4 000 women die annually of cervical cancer, a disease caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Infections caused by certain genotypes of HPV increase the risk of cervical cancer. HIV-infected women in particular are more likely to have persistent HPV infection, with higher-risk genotypes. In SA, two vaccines (HPV quadrivalent (types 6, 11, 16, and 18) vaccine, recombinant (Gardasil) and HPV bivalent (types 16 and 18) vaccine, recombinant (Cervarix)) are currently registered for the prevention of HPV-related disease. In the past, there have been significant challenges to achieving high coverage and uptake of vaccination – contributory factors include cost and lack of awareness. An HPV demonstration project among schoolgirls in rural KwaZulu-Natal showed that high vaccine uptake is achievable. In 2014, the National Department of Health launched the national HPV vaccination programme among female learners attending public schools. Awareness of HPV vaccination among healthcare providers, education of parents, teachers and learners, and avoidance of missed opportunities for vaccination are vital to the success of the programme. Primary healthcare practitioners may play an important role in cervical cancer prevention by identifying and offering vaccination to girls who miss the opportunity to be vaccinated at school. HPV vaccination should be considered as one arm of a comprehensive programme of cervical cancer prevention and control.