The Media’s Role in Vaccine Roll-out for Young Girls

Vitalio Angula

A total of N$126 million of this year’s health and social services budget has been earmarked for vaccine procurement,

logistics and awareness campaigns for the planned Human Papillomavirus Vaccines (HPV) roll-out set to begin in April.

After a lengthy delay because of budgetary constraints, adolescent girls between the ages of nine and 14 can finally gain access to this vaccine, a preventative tool in the fight against cervical cancer.

HPV is responsible for approximately 90% cases of cervical cancer.

The incidence rate in Namibia is 37,5/100 000 cases. This is higher than the global rate of 13,3/100 000 and Africa’s incidence rate of 30,9/ 100 000.

Cervical cancer ranks as the second leading cause of female cancer in Namibia.

Every year, 375 women are diagnosed with it, and every year 214 women die from it.

As cervical cancer is preventable through vaccination, it is crucial for the media to play a central role in disseminating information, creating awareness and tackling misinformation and disinformation which may arise as a result of ignorance, vaccine hesitance and political sabotage of government programmes by those with an agenda.


It is no secret that fear of the unknown creates hesitancy in adopting new practices.

Having a target group of minors for a vaccine that has never been rolled out in Namibia before presents a unique set of challenges.

Media practitioners will have to answer, through their mediums, what HPV is, what the vaccine does, why it is important and why it is targeted at the nine-14 age group.

Former first lady Monica Geingos, in her capacity as the president of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD), has played a pivotal role in advocating the uptake of Sexual Reproductive Health Services (SRH) by adolescents and young people in Namibia.

Geingos’s role fell/falls under the health ministry’s mandate and included ensuring that medical technologies proven to be beneficial are well understood by both young people and their parents to increase uptake.

Despite no longer being first lady, madam Geingos, through the One Economy Foundation Project #Be Free Services, can and should play a supporting role in sensitising parents and adolescents on the benefits of the HPV Vaccine. 

The One Economy Foundation’s Youth Campus has the infrastructure, staff, technical know-how and institutional capability to be a strategic partner in the successful roll-out of the vaccine.


So far, 129 countries (65%) have introduced the HPV-Vaccine. In Africa, Rwanda, South Africa and Burkina Faso are leading the way in its uptake.

So far, Uganda has been the most successful, according to Ben Nangombe, the health ministry’s executive director.

“Society understands the positive impact the introduction of preventative measures can have. Prevention is better than cure.

We know that the burden of disease, including cancer, is increasing around the world so it’s crucial that we are able to protect our women in order for them to live healthy lives without the threat of cancer,” Nangombe said on the sidelines of the 2024 National Management Development Forum in Windhoek on Wednesday.

In April 2023, Roche Diagnostics hosted an HPV workshop to discuss Namibia’s cervical cancer elimination strategy at which Geingos was the keynote speaker.

She outlined OAFLAD’s plans to tackle cancer across Africa through its ‘Unifying Campaign’, which aims to close gender gaps in education, health and economic inclusion for women.

“The workshop focused on a multi-disciplinary approach across the healthcare ecosystem to propel Namibia forward in eliminating cervical cancer by 2023,” she said.

Introducing the HPV-Vaccine Campaign that targets 183 468 adolescent girls with a one-dose regimen needs coordinated efforts from development partners like Unicef, the World Health Organisation, the Centre of Disease Control, and the ministries of education, information and youth.

But most importantly (no bias intended), the introduction of the HPV-Vaccine needs the support of Namibia’s media for the timely, accurate and continuous dissemination of information.

In the words of Geingos: “We are left with no choice but to do things differently. Reducing the number of women who die from cervical cancer has always been urgent and it makes no sense that the cervical cancer disease burden continues to increase while cervical cancer is probable the only truly preventable cancer.

“The scaling up of prevention for both HIV and HPV programmes needs new and innovative approaches. There is a real risk of losing ground in gains made but there is also real opportunity in sustaining them,” she said.

Geingos said there was no need to re-invent the wheel, but what is needed is a renewed political commitment, smart utilisation of funds and an innovative approach to raising awareness through a fresh narrative.

This is where the media could play a leading role.

  • * Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and independent columnist.

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