The Cameroonian government has set new measures to optimize vaccination campaigns across the country in 2023.
The first measure concerns the introduction of a second dose of inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) in the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI). "The dose goes from one at 14 weeks, to 2 at 14 weeks and 9 months," the EPI document explains. On June 18, 2020, Cameroon was declared polio-free. However, other forms of poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) derived from a vaccine strain continue to circulate in the country, primarily in areas where children are under- or unvaccinated. The introduction of a second dose of vaccine was recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to allow for the complete withdrawal of the oral polio vaccine (OPV), while providing a higher level of protection against cVDPV2 that poses a risk to the country.
Extension of HPV vaccine to boys
A second measure adopted by Cameroon is the choice of Rotavac vaccine instead of Rotarix to prevent rotavirus diarrhea in babies. Although both vaccines are live oral rotavirus vaccines, their vaccination patterns are quite different. Rotavac is administrated in three doses (6, 10, and 14 weeks) and Rotarix has only two doses (6 and 10 weeks), the EPI says. Starting this year, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is being reduced from two doses to one. The vaccine is also being extended to boys, whereas previously only girls were targeted.
"When the HPV vaccine was first rolled out in Cameroon, the supply was not enough to cover two doses for both girls and boys. We, therefore, focused on girls to prevent cervical cancer, which is the most deadly of the HPV infections. Recent scientific breakthroughs found that a single dose was sufficient to ensure protection. Cameroon has thus revised its national guidelines to now include boys in the HPV vaccination campaigns. For both targets, the vaccine is given before they get sexually active. In Cameroon the vaccine is administrated at 9 years old," explains Dr. Gisèle Efouba, head of the EPI supplementary immunization activities unit.
She explains that HPV infections are sexually transmitted and can also cause penile and anal cancer in men. Hence the extension of the target to boys as of this year.
The third change to the immunization schedule is the introduction of the Covid-19 vaccine into the EPI. "All health districts have centers that routinely vaccinate against Covid-19. People go there to take either their first, second, or booster dose," said Dr. Daniel Nebongo, acting head of the routine immunization unit at EPI.
The new measures take into account the most recent scientific data, the epidemiology of certain vaccine-preventable diseases (VPD), and the opinions of experts, including the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), we learn. The goal is to provide optimal protection against VPDs for children, adolescents, and adults.