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FG finally rolls out HPV vaccine in Nigeria

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By Abraham Adekunle

Targets seven million girls in the largest round of vaccination in West Africa.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that can affect different parts of the body. There are over 100 types of this virus, including strains that cause warts on hands, feet, face, etc. About 30 strains of the virus can affect genitals, including the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis and scrotum, as well as your rectum and anus. Some strains of the disease are high-risk and can lead to cancers, like cervical cancer. Early detection and treatment can usually prevent this from happening.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is the most common STI. There were about 43 million infections in 2018, many among people in their late teens and early twenties. Again, a paper published in the BMC Public Health journal reveals that both men and women have a 50-percent risk of being infected at least once in their life. It further said that HPV prevalence is among the highest in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which is at an average of 24 percent.

Nigerian government moves for early prevention through vaccination.

Because this disease causes different types of cancers, including cervical cancer (CC), which is the leading cause of cancer deaths among women in SSA, governments are creating awareness and making vaccination available. HPV-vaccination has been proven to be effective in reducing its induced cancers. SSA countries are delayed in reaching the WHO target of fully vaccinating 90 percent of girls within the age of 15 by 2030. So, the Federal Government has launched the rollout of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

It targets over seven million girls aged nine to 14, and it is the largest number in a single round of HPV vaccinations in the African region. The vaccine will be administered by the ministry of health through the platform of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in a five-day mass vaccination campaign in schools and communities in 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Also, the vaccine will then be incorporated into routine immunization schedules within health facilities.

Minister of health implored parents to let their girls take the vaccine.

Furthermore, the second phase of the vaccination introduction is scheduled to begin in May 2024 in 21 states. Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, Ali Pate, the minister of health, said that the vaccination is a momentous opportunity to safeguard girls from the scourge of cervical cancers many years into the future. He acknowledged various government agencies, development partners, health workers, traditional rulers, religious leaders, civil society organisations, and indeed all stakeholders, whose efforts, dedication, and amazing support have made this day possible.

He said that as a parent who has four daughters himself, all of them have had the HPV vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer. He implored fellow parents and all leaders to dutifully ensure that this generation of girls disrupt the preventable loss of lives to cervical cancer in addition to other untold hardships, losses, and pain. More awareness is being created about the virus, especially in rural areas where the risks are high and the people have little or no access to medical attention.

Over 35,000 health workers trained ahead of vaccine delivery.

In a statement on Tuesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that with support from its country office in Nigeria and other partners, over 35,000 health workers have so far been trained ahead of the vaccine delivery in all health facilities. The statement further said that vaccination sites have been established in all 4,163 wards across the 16 states included in the phase one rollout to ensure that no eligible girl is left behind. Mobile vaccination units have also been set up to ensure that remote communities can access the vaccine. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO representative in Nigeria, said that the launch is a pivotal moment in Nigeria efforts to lower the burden of cervical cancer.

Related Links

BMC Public Health: Website    CDC: Website

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