Source: Premium Times

The Nigerian government has secured over six million doses of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine to protect teenage girls against cervical cancer and other related diseases.

The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, made this known at a press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday.

Mr Shuaib said a single dose of the Gardasil HPV vaccine has been approved for rollout to prevent infection and reduce the risk of cervical cancer.

He said the agency, in close collaboration with other partners, has diligently executed a comprehensive plan to introduce the HPV vaccine.

"We have bolstered the capabilities of our frontline healthcare workers, ensuring they are adept in administering the vaccine," he said. "Alongside our partners and donors, we have secured over six million doses of the HPV vaccine and essential supplies."

Awareness creation

Mr Shuaib said the agency has conducted numerous forums to raise awareness among stakeholders, including parents and caregivers regarding the pivotal importance of HPV vaccination.

To address any concerns or misconceptions, he said the agency has engaged with communities and established a robust monitoring and evaluation framework to measure the impact and progress of the vaccination campaign.

He noted that while vaccination is the most potent prevention measure against HPV, women are encouraged to undergo regular screening tests for early detection and treatment.

Vaccine rollout

Mr Shuaib said the vital vaccine introduction would occur in two phases.

He said in each phase, the agency will initiate a five-day campaign encompassing schools, communities, markets, government-owned health facilities, and other public places, targeting girls aged nine to 14.

"Subsequently, we will continue routine vaccination within health facilities for the same age group. By 2025, we anticipate transitioning to full routine immunisation with the HPV vaccine, focusing on girls aged nine," he said.

He said the first phase will encompass 16 states, including Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, Jigawa, Kano, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Osun, Taraba, and the Federal Capital Territory.

"The second phase is scheduled for the first quarter of 2024 and will encompass the remaining states: Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara," he said.

Speaking at the briefing, the Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mojisola Adeyeye, noted that the agency is committed to ensuring the safety, quality and efficacy of the Gardasil vaccine in the country.

Mrs Adeyeye said Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against HPV and it is recommended for girls and boys aged 11 to 12 years, but it can be given as early as nine years or as late as 26 years.

She noted that the decision to deploy the vaccine as a single-dose schedule is based on the scientific evidence that shows that a single dose can provide solid protection against the virus.

HPV, cervical cancer

Cervical cancer, a type of cancer that develops in a woman's cervix, is the fourth most common cancer among women globally. Experts said in 2018 alone, it caused an estimated 311,000 deaths worldwide.

Research by The Lancet also reveals that more than 44 million women globally stand to develop cervical cancer between 2020 and 2069.

It also warned that deaths from cervical cancer will increase a further 50 per cent by 2040 and that many women, their families, and communities will be impacted.

Although the causes of cancer are unknown, 14 out of the 100 types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) strains have been identified to cause at least 99 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

According to WHO, HPV types 16 and 18 cause at least 70 per cent of cervical cancers and pre-cancerous cervical lesions.

There is also evidence linking HPV with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, and oropharynx.

WHO estimates that cervical cancer could be the first cancer to be eliminated if 90 per cent of girls are vaccinated against HPV, 70 per cent of women are screened, and 90 per cent of women with the disease receive treatment.

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