2019 HPV Vaccination Stories
1. We’re beating the odds and emerging successful through strategic planning and perseverance.
We were committed to and successful in storing the HPV vaccines at an ideal temperature during transport and administration. This involved close and clear communication between the seller of the vaccines, Vaccipharm, and the airline transporting them. And once the vaccines were in our possession, buying diesel to run a power plant when there was a power outage at the local storage depot. Thanks to these efforts, the quality of the vaccines was not compromised in any way.
2. No child will be left behind if we can help it.
56 of the 100 girls who were given their first vaccination dose in November came back for their second on our first day. We returned to our hotel room feeling a little discouraged but determined to do all we could to increase that number. Four of us then spent three hours making phone calls and sending texts to parents to stress the importance of their children completing their vaccination schedule. When parents shared obstacles preventing them from bringing their children, we offered solutions. This group effort paid off and many more girls were able to get vaccinated, including two special cases:
At one point during our third day, cheers erupted from all of the volunteers as an 11-year-old girl walked into the library of the NYSC school to meet the vaccination team. She was accompanied by her father who had to pick her up from a town two hours away. Her arrival and vaccination increased our return rate for the second dose to 94%.The proud father stood by and watched the nurse administer the vaccine. We congratulated him for taking a proactive, lifesaving step for his daughter. The vaccination was completed in less than one minute, but we know it will benefit this child for the rest of their life.
Mabel, a 13-year-old, was not in school the two days we were there to administer the second dose. Several phone calls later, her mother disclosed she did not have the required school uniform. The vaccination team immediately removed this barrier. Special permission was obtained from the principal and the team made a third unscheduled visit to the school. Mabel came in her plain clothes and completed her second vaccination dose. She is another child who will not be a statistic in the cervical cancer registry.
3. Our advocacy efforts have gotten a big boost.
The mother of one of the girls who received her second vaccination dose approached and invited us to the state television broadcasting corporation where she works. We were able to use this platform, that reaches millions of viewers, to speak about the burden of cervical cancer and the benefits of HPV vaccination.
4. We’re striving to collaborate with organizations in Nigeria.
During our visit, we met with Dr. Jacinta Okoi-Obuli, President of Medical Women Association. Medical Women Association creates cervical cancer awareness and provides subsided cervical screenings with Pap smears for women over 21. Women in Nigeria have to pay for Pap screenings and with the monthly income of about 100 dollars per middle class family, the vast majority cannot afford this “luxury.” That is why cervical cancer has such striking global health inequity. More than 80% of the deaths from cervical cancer occur in countries like Nigeria. This proportion is expected to increase to 90% by 2020 according to the NEMJ (May 2007). This is why there is need for urgent action.
We also met with Professor Ima-Obong Ekanem, Director of the Calabar Cancer Registry. She and her team are working to identify the prevalent strains of HPV in the Cross River State region. It was eye-opening to review the data on the five year incidence of cancer in Calabar, Nigeria between 2009 and 2013. This study was done in collaboration with the Nuffield Department of Population Health of Oxford University and the African Cancer Registry Network. In this study, cervical cancer was among the top three cancers diagnosed in Calabar. Breast and cervical cancer accounted for 60.4% of all cancers in women. 46% of these women were between 30 and 49 years old at diagnosis. At this age, women are in school, working, caring for children, or other family members. Their illness is devastating to the whole family. This data underlies the need for programs that target early detection to improve outcomes and for prevention through vaccination.
5. We encourage you to be a part of our ongoing vaccination initiative.
We are excited to be on the right side of history as we promote HPV vaccination and join the rest of the world in the effort to take the entire chapter of cervical cancer out of womens’ lives. Please join us. You can make a donation on our website at ibiafoundation.org/donate or send us a check by mail to 1760 Reston Parkway, Suite 215, Reston, VA 20190. Also, please consider using smile.amazon.com and choosing the Ekopimo Ibia Foundation as the charity you are supporting. And lastly, please spread the word. We need all the help we can get.