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Nigeria begins second phase of HPV vaccination

...UNICEF targets 90% coverage of girls by December

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The second phase of vaccination against Human Papilloma virus (HPV) begins today, May 27, in Nigeria’s three South West  states of Ekiti, Ondo and  Oyo, as well as Edo, South South and Kwara in the North Central zone.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) aims to vaccinate 90 percent of Nigerian girls aged nine to fourteen against Human Papillomavirus (HPV) by December 2024.

Addressing misinformation and myths about HPV vaccination, UNICEF emphasized that the vaccine remains the most effective method to prevent cervical cancer in girls and women.
Dr. Ijeoma Agbo, a health specialist at UNICEF’s Lagos field office, discussed this initiative during a recent two-day media dialogue titled “Combating The Most Preventable Form Of Deadly Cancer Affecting Women and Girls Through Vaccination,” held in anticipation of the campaign’s launch.

Dr. Agbo noted that the first phase, initiated last year in Ogun, Lagos, Osun, and some northern states, achieved over a 50 percent success rate. She attributed the high cervical cancer rates to limited access to HPV vaccination services, inadequate screening and treatment, and low awareness.

She urged parents and guardians to ensure their teenage girls receive the vaccination.

“We aim to achieve a 90 percent vaccination rate for HPV,” Dr. Agbo stated. “Nationally, we have about 50 percent coverage, but the SouthWest fell short of expectations. Osun State reached 70 percent through targeted efforts, while Ogun and Lagos achieved around 40 percent each. Some northern states reached 70 percent, highlighting the need for more work in the South.

“We are now expanding to the remaining three South West states and Edo. These states are near Lagos, Ogun, and Osun, where we previously introduced the vaccine. It’s crucial to address past issues to improve the program in new areas and enhance ongoing efforts.”

Dr. Agbo appealed to parents: “We need your support. UNICEF’s mandate is to ensure every child, especially girls, can survive, thrive, and fulfill their potential. We aim to prevent future cases of cervical cancer, making this initiative vital.”

Muhammad Okorie, UNICEF’s Programme Manager, highlighted the media dialogue as an opportunity to educate the public about the benefits of HPV vaccination and other proven global health interventions.

The Kwara Government also announced that the state plans to vaccinate 311,000 girls between the ages of nine and 14.

Addressing journalists in Ilorin last week, Dr Michael Oguntoye, a Director at the Kwara State Primary Healthcare Development Agency said the exercise would begin would last for five days.

The media engagement was organised by John Snow Incorporated (JSI), with support from HPV Vaccine Acceleration Programme Partners Initiative (HAPPI) Consortium, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Oguntoye said that the vaccination exercise was initiated by the Federal Government, with support from JSI, HAPPI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

He added that the five-day campaign, which would be inaugurated by the wife of Kwara governor, Dr Olufolake AbdulRazaq, would target both school and out-of-school girls.

“The HPV vaccine will be available across all primary health care facilities in the state.

“The vaccine is safe, efficacious and is not an attempt to reduce population or family planning strategy,” he said.

In her remarks, Dr Dupe Shittu, Social Mobilisation Officer, Kwara State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, described HPV as a group of viruses that could infect the genital areas of both men and women.

She explained that while many HPV infections go away on their own, certain strains of the virus could lead to more serious health issues.

“One of the most concerning outcomes of persistent HPV infection is cervical cancer.

“Cervical cancer affects women globally, and sadly, Nigeria is no exception.

“Our nation carries a heavy burden of cervical cancer cases, impacting the lives of our mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives,” she said.

Shittu added that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer incidences in the world.

She particularly said that the devastating disease not only affected the physical health of women, but also took a toll on families, communities, and the society.

She explained that the most common mode of transmission was through sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

“The virus can be passed from one person to another even if there are no visible signs of infection or symptoms,” she said.

Also speaking, Mr Kannath Ibrahim, the Social and Behavioural Change Communication Officer, JSI, advised journalists to verify and disseminate the right information to the public.

Ibrahim, who spoke on the topic, “Combating Misinformation, Myths, Debunking and Pre-Bunking Rumours, Prevalent, Rumours and Misconception”, explained that rumours, when unchecked or addressed, lead to misinformation.  (NAN)

 

 

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