In a significant move aimed at safeguarding the health of women and girls, the Federal Government of Nigeria has revealed its plan to introduce the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to counter cervical cancer. This announcement was made on Monday during the bi-annual review meeting of religious leaders on Primary Healthcare delivery in Abuja.
The Nigerian government shared that the HPV vaccine will be administered starting from September 25, 2023, specifically targeting girls between the ages of nine to fifteen. This vaccination initiative is expected to play a crucial role in preventing cervical cancer among these young individuals.
Cervical cancer, a type of cancer that affects the cells of the cervix, is often linked to certain strains of the Human Papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection. The vaccine’s potential to prevent over 90 percent of HPV-associated cancers has garnered attention from healthcare experts worldwide.
The World Health Organization’s data highlights that in Nigeria, two prevalent HPV types (16 and 18) are responsible for nearly half of high-grade cervical pre-cancers. This vaccine comes as a hopeful measure to address this pressing health concern. With an estimated 14,000 women diagnosed and 7,968 deaths attributed to cervical cancer annually in Nigeria, the introduction of the HPV vaccine is anticipated to have a substantial impact on curbing this disease.
During the review meeting, Dr. Muhammad Pate, Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, underscored the importance of blending spiritual and scientific knowledge to address healthcare challenges. Representing Dr. Pate, Dr. Emmanuel Odu, Senior Special Adviser to the Minister, emphasized the role of faith-based organizations in complementing the government’s healthcare efforts.
The Executive Director and CEO of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, encouraged religious leaders to raise awareness about the free HPV vaccination, dispel misconceptions, and promote healthier behaviors among their congregations.
Sultan Abubakar III, President of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, stressed the interplay of health and nutrition in addressing public health issues. He expressed confidence in the collaboration between religious and traditional leaders in supporting the government’s initiatives.
Archbishop Daniel Okoh, represented by Rev. Joseph, President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, appreciated the attention primary healthcare is receiving. He highlighted the pivotal role religious leaders play in health awareness and their capacity to influence public health decisions.
The introduction of the HPV vaccine marks a significant stride towards a healthier future for Nigerian women and girls. With religious leaders joining hands with medical authorities, the nation is poised to witness improved healthcare access, especially for those in rural areas.