Ana Cristina Gonzalez has been a nurse for 14 years. She works in the Health Center of the Ciudad Vieja municipality, department of Sacatepéquez, Guatemala. Today, Ana Cristina is going out to the community to apply the HPV vaccine to girls who did not attend classes on the day the vaccine was applied in their schools. On the days Ana is out and about vaccinating in the community, she carries with her a thermo-carrier for vaccines and a backpack with information and authorizations for families to sign.
The streets of Ciudad Vieja are in the foothills of the Water Volcano and are known for being steep. Ana, who has always lived in this area, is used to traveling and knows that if she did not do this job, many girls would be left without the protection of the vaccine."If our records show that a girl has not been vaccinated because her parents are not in agreement or because she was not at school on vaccination day, we visit the girls at their homes with the vaccine," explains Ana.
"Before, this vaccine was promoted only by pediatricians because of its cost. Now I think it's a great opportunity for girls to have this vaccine, because we at the health center have seen cases of cervical cancer, so thanks to this vaccine the girls will be protected," says Ana.
The vaccination campaign against cervical cancer began this year. The goal of the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance of Guatemala is to vaccinate 190 thousand 10-year-old girls. The vaccine has no cost to families and within about a month, almost the entire projected population was vaccinated. To reach the goal, there is a large number of health professionals like Ana, who go in search of "lost" girls to deliver information to families and to apply the vaccine.
This is the case for Luisa Fernanda, 10 years old, who did not go to school on the vaccination day. She is one of the last girls in Ana´s district to reach the proposed goal of about 725 girls. Ana was warmly received by Luisa Fernanda´s family, who thanked her for her concern to ensure that Luisa received the first dose of the vaccine.
"Among the challenges I have encountered is that families do not see this vaccine as beneficial or are afraid to have it applied," explains Ana.
In Guatemala, 1,500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, with an average of 800 deaths per year among women. Therefore, Ana and the district team have done an extensive promotional campaign with the support of teachers and school principals to be able to meet the HPV vaccine coverage goal. "For me, it is excellent that we have this vaccine included in the national schedule. This is going to save many lives," concludes Ana.