Second Briefings for Journalists within “Misinformation Management System and Journalists Briefings” Project
On November 9, 2023, a briefing for journalists was held on the topic “HPV Vaccination” as part of the “Misinformation Management System and Journalists Briefings” project implemented by Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society in partnership with UNICEF and in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of North Macedonia, with the financial support from USAID. The goal of the project is to develop misinformation management system related to vaccination in the country and increase the capacity of media coverage on immunization.
The briefing was opened by Patrizia DiGiovanni, UNICEF Representative in North Macedonia, and after that Prof. Dr. Aleksandra Grozdanova, President of the National Commission on Immunization, as representative of the expert working group functioning within the framework of the project, and Prof. Dr. Goran Dimitrov, Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialist from the University Clinic of Gynecology and Obstetrics shared data and experiences regarding the state, coverage and benefits of HPV vaccination.
Speaking about the human papilloma virus (HPV), the doctors emphasized the fact that it is the main cause of cervical cancer in 99.8% of cases, and there is a vaccine that can prevent this serious disease.
“This vaccine faces many myths and stereotypes that are absolutely not scientifically supported. One of them is that it affects the reproductive ability of women. On the contrary, the reduction of reproductive ability is seen precisely in those couples, in which HPV infection has been present for a long time. HPV vaccine is not new either, it has been around for more than 20 years. In 156 countries, this vaccine has been included in the regular immunization calendar. Highly developed countries such as Australia, Great Britain, Scandinavia, are already moving towards the eradication of cervical cancer by increasing coverage and vaccinating generations, we are talking about a high percentage. Let’s talk about a disease that can be completely preventable. We are talking about an infectious disease, but it leads to the development of cancer. It should be clearly explained to the parents when they make the decision. No parent should have to face the question of their child why he was not vaccinated against this disease, when we have an effective, free and extremely safe vaccine,” said Prof. Dr. Grozdanova.
“We advocate that the HPV test be primary in screening, because it is more sensitive. We are fighting to reduce the percentage of cancer patients, and this directly depends on coverage, the better coverage we have of vaccination, the more the number of cancer patients will decrease. We have the so-called creation of herd immunity. If boys also start being vaccinated, if we have a girl who is not infected and has sex with a boy who is vaccinated, there is no spread of the disease and thus herd immunity is created. However, the percentage should grow, and a good percentage is the one over 80-90 percent,” said Prof. Dr. Dimitrov.
According to the latest data, in 2022, the coverage is 52.5% of those who were vaccinated against HPV. This coverage is the smallest if other vaccines are taken into account. However, last year’s coverage is higher than that of 2021, when 35% were vaccinated. Girls at the age of 15 receive three doses of this vaccine, and younger girls receive two doses, whereas the National Commission on Immunization also issued a recommendation to extend the time period of receiving the vaccine, i.e. all girls who turn 19 by the end of the calendar year can receive the HPV vaccine. The effectiveness of the vaccine begins one year after receiving the last dose.
This Activity is prepared by Metamorphosis Foundation for Internet and Society as part of the Preventing and responding to COVID-19 in North Macedonia project funded by the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in cooperation with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of North Macedonia.