The Federal Government on Tuesday introduced the Human Papillomavirus vaccine into the routine immunization system.
The vaccination targets over seven million girls, which is the largest number in a single round of HPV vaccination in the African region.
Correspondent reports that girls aged nine to 14 years will receive a single dose of the vaccine, which is highly efficacious in preventing infection with HPV types 16 and 18 that are known to cause at least 70 per cent of cervical cancers.
In Nigeria, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most frequent cause of cancer deaths among women aged between 15 and 44 years.
In 2020, Nigeria recorded 12,000 new cases and 8,000 deaths from cervical cancer.
A statement by the World Health Organisation noted that a five-day mass vaccination campaign in schools and communities will be carried out during the inaugural rollout in 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
“The vaccine will then be incorporated into routine immunisation schedules within health facilities. The second phase of the vaccination introduction is set to start in May 2024 in 21 states.
“The vaccine is being provided for free by the Federal Ministry of Health through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organisation, and other partners.
“With support from the WHO country office in Nigeria and other partners, over 35 000 health workers have so far been trained in preparation for the campaign and subsequent vaccine delivery in all health facilities.
“Vaccination sites have been established in all 4,163 wards across the 16 states included in the phase one rollout to ensure no eligible girl is left behind. Mobile vaccination units have also been set up to ensure that remote communities can access the vaccine,” the statement read in part.
According to the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate, the loss of about 8000 Nigerian women yearly from a disease that is preventable is unacceptable.
“Cervical cancer is mostly caused by HPV, and parents can avoid physical and financial pain by protecting their children with a single dose of the vaccine. Saving lives, producing quality health outcomes and protecting the well-being of Nigerians are central to the Renewed Health Agenda of President Bola Tinubu.
“The onset of the vaccination campaign is an opportunity to safeguard our girls from the scourge of cervical cancers many years into the future. As a parent myself, I have four daughters, all of whom have had the same HPV vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer. I’d like to implore fellow parents to dutifully ensure that this generation of our girls disrupt the preventable loss of lives to cervical cancer in addition to other untold hardship, loss, and pain,” Pate said.
Also, the WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo, said, “This is a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s efforts to lower the burden of cervical cancer – one of the few cancers which can potentially be eliminated through vaccination.