PAHO Suriname fights cervical cancer with HPV vaccine training

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Workers at PAHO Suriname (picture: courtesy of PAHO Suriname)

In a significant step towards combating cervical cancer, PAHO Suriname and the National Immunization Program hosted a two-day Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine training on 23 and 24 November 2023 at the Conference Room of Hotel Jacana. Cervical cancer, ranking as the fourth most common cancer among women, globally, has become a critical public health concern in Suriname, with an estimated annual morbidity of 78 cases and mortality of 48 deaths and ranked as the second main cause of cancer in women in Suriname. The training aimed to address these concerns and boost the country’s efforts to prevent and control cervical cancer through an updated HPV vaccination strategy.

The training commenced with opening remarks from distinguished speakers, including Dr Noreen Jack, PAHO/WHO representative, and Sharon Saridjan-Tjokro, deputy director of BOG. Sessions included an in-depth overview of cervical cancer and HPV, discussions on recent policy changes with a focus on the modified HPV vaccine protocol, and on communication strategies to educate and raise awareness on the benefits of the HPV vaccination.

Suriname faced challenges, with coverage plummeting to eight per cent in 2022. The adoption of the one-dose HPV vaccine schedule, in line with recent WHO SAGE recommendations and PAHO’s endorsement, signals a renewed commitment to enhance vaccination efforts.

Richard Kartomo provided an insightful overview of HPV and cervical cancer by setting the stage for discussions on policy changes and vaccine protocol modifications. Ruthly Francois, a PAHO consultant, delved into the recent policy changes surrounding HPV vaccination, sparking a dynamic dialogue on the critical shifts in approach. Richard Kartomo and Ruthly Francois jointly facilitated discussions on the modifications to the HPV vaccine protocol, highlighting the collaborative efforts required for effective implementation.

Recognizing the importance of practical application, the training incorporated a segment on Suriname’s demographics. Participants engaged in a group activity focused on estimating the need for HPV vaccines, fostering collaboration and a deeper understanding of the country’s unique requirements. The subsequent discussion and wrap-up emphasized the importance of collective efforts in addressing the challenges and shaping the path forward.

The global push to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem is evident in the Regional Strategy and Plan of Action for Cervical Cancer Prevention and Control adopted in 2008. PAHO Member States, including Suriname, pledged to achieve WHO global strategy targets (90-70-90), emphasizing vaccination, screening, and treatment. The recent TAG recommendations aligning with the single-dose schedule for HPV vaccination further highlight the collective commitment in the Americas.

Dr Jack emphasized PAHO’s unwavering commitment to support Suriname in achieving its vaccination goals. With 47 countries in the Americas already introducing the HPV vaccine in their national schedules, and 23 per cent transitioning to the single-dose schedule, PAHO is at the forefront of providing critical support and expertise. The training served as a platform to strengthen the capacity of health workers immunization from the MOH, RGD and Medical Mission, and initiated comprehensive awareness.

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