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Round Table: "Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding HPV Vaccination in Romania – Challenges and Solutions"

Bucharest, April 11, 2024 - At the Palace of Parliament, the round table organized by the Renașterea Foundation in partnership with the Health Committee of the Romanian Senate brought to public attention the initial results of the ReThinkHPVaccination project, which identifies perceptions and attitudes related to HPV vaccination and highlights challenges and solutions in this vital area of public health.

By promoting vaccination and ensuring access to these vaccines for all young people, Romania can make significant progress in fighting cervical cancer and improving public health. In this context, the ReThinkHPVaccination Project – co-financed by the European Commission, coordinated by the Renașterea Foundation and having as partners the Centre for Innovation in Medicine and the Eurocomunicare Association – becomes even more important.

The event on April 11 was attended by prominent personalities from the medical field, sociology, and communication, representatives of legislative and executive authorities, and the media.

"We need to start health education as early as possible. We should talk to children about hygiene, protection, and the benefits of vaccination. We have the model of countries that have been vaccinating since 2009. For example, in Australia, continuous education was conducted, and through HPV vaccination of both girls and boys, cervical cancer has been eliminated. This disease no longer exists in Australia!"

Professor Dr. Adrian Streinu Cercel, President of the Senate Health Committee, who discussed the role of education in promoting HPV vaccination in Romania.

"Although extremely important steps have been taken regarding prevention, in our country, statistics still place us at the forefront in terms of incidence and mortality from cervical cancer. Today, both primary and secondary prevention are very accessible, but they are not sufficiently communicated and, therefore, accessed. As we reiterate at each event, any health campaign or project must be intensely communicated, targeted at each segment of the population, through all mediums, to change the dramatic statistics related to cervical cancer in Romania"

Mihaela Geoană, President of the Renașterea Foundation, presented the project's objectives, highlighting the importance of educating and raising awareness of the benefits of prevention.

Dr. Tiberius Brădățan, Secretary of State within the Ministry of Health, discussed the ministry's strategies and policies for improving access to and implementation of HPV vaccination.

Dr. Gindrovel Dumitra, Primary Family Medicine Doctor, coordinator of the vaccinology group within the National Society of Family Medicine (SNMF), member of the Scientific Committee of the ReThink HPV Vaccination Project, emphasized the crucial role of family doctors in promoting and implementing preventive practices among the population and asked for the support of the press and other involved institutions to disseminate accurate messages about HPV vaccination.

Video messages supporting the ReThink HPV Vaccination project were transmitted by:

  • Senator Nicoleta Pauliuc, supporter of programs dedicated to oncological patients, initiator of numerous laws for patients, herself a cancer survivor.
  • Jeliazko Arabadjiev, Associate Professor of Oncology, President of the Bulgarian Scientific Society for Immuno-Oncology, Member of the Expert Committee on Medical Oncology at the Bulgarian Ministry of Health, Consultant in Medical Oncology at the European Society for Medical Oncology.
  • Dr. Dégi László Csaba, Full Professor at Babeș-Bolyai University, Faculty of Sociology and Social Assistance in Cluj-Napoca, President of the European Cancer Organization (ECO) in Brussels, Executive Secretary of the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS), and representative of Romania at the American Association of Social Workers in Oncology.
  • Associate Professor Ileana Rotaru from the Faculty of Political Sciences, Philosophy, and Communication Sciences, West University of Timișoara, member of the Scientific Committee of the ReThink HPV project.
  • Directly from Brussels, Professor Dr. Aurélie Joris, an obstetrics-gynecology doctor at Saint Pierre University Hospital Brussels, presented an overview of HPV-induced cancer cases and mortality rates across the European Union. She also highlighted the challenges and solutions of the Belgian model, which are the same that the ReThink HPV Vaccination Project has identified in Romania.

The presentation of the project knowledge platform was supported by Dr. Marius Geantă, president of the Centre for Innovation in Medicine, partner in the ReThinkHPVaccination project. The results of the sociological study and the communication guide, two of the stages completed so far in the project, were presented by Associate Professor Dr. Alina Duduciuc from the Faculty of Communication and Public Relations, National School of Political and Administrative Studies (SNSPA), coordinator of the postgraduate program Communication in Health – Eurocomunicare, partner within the ReThinkHPVaccination project.

Raluca Sîmbotin, Director of Policies and Government Relations at MSD Romania, had an intervention about European vaccination models – successful campaigns conducted in Sweden and Portugal.

Victoria Asanache, a patient navigator for oncological patients, spoke about the role of patient navigators in prevention, screening, and therapeutic conduct and discussed the courses that will take place from May to November within the pilot project to be carried out in Argeș and Vrancea counties. The round table also had as guests representatives of the Public Health Directorates from the two mentioned counties, who support the implementation of the pilot project for training communicators of ReThinkHPVaccination Project.

The event was marked by intense and constructive discussions, in which aspects such as the accessibility of the vaccine, effective communication among the population, and the need for involvement of all relevant actors in promoting public health were debated. Journalists and communication specialists (Izabela Marinescu and Dorin Chioțea from TVR, Dr. Bogdan Ivănescu - Dr. MiT, Oana Cociașu - Medic One) actively participated, supporting the role of mass media in communicating the benefits of the HPV vaccine and reducing the incidence of cervical cancer and other HPV-associated diseases.

The debate addressed multiple aspects related to HPV vaccination, including public perceptions and attitudes, challenges encountered in vaccination campaigns, and proposed solutions to overcome these obstacles.

During the discussions, various challenges related to HPV vaccination were highlighted, such as the lack of adequate information among the population, stigma, and myths associated with this type of vaccine, as well as the need to strengthen efforts for equal access to vaccination in all areas of the country. Participants emphasized the importance of effective communication in promoting vaccination, highlighting the need for an integrated approach that involves health authorities, medical professionals, the community, and civil society. Moreover, the importance of correct information and health education was underlined to increase awareness and acceptance of vaccination, with the goal of reducing the incidence of cervical cancer in Romania.

Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Health and Digital Executive Agency (HaDEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.
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