Nigeria Launches HPV Vaccination Campaign to Protect 7.7 Million Girls

In a significant move to combat cervical cancer, Nigeria has integrated the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into its regular immunization system, with a goal of vaccinating 7.7 million girls.

Girls in Nigeria between the ages of 9 and 14 will receive a single dose of the vaccine, highly effective in preventing HPV types 16 and 18, responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer cases.

Cervical cancer ranks as the third most common cancer in Nigeria, representing the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women aged 15 to 44. In 2020 alone, the country reported a staggering 12,000 new cervical cancer cases, resulting in 8,000 fatalities.

Muhammad Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health & Social Welfare, expressed deep concern over the preventable loss of around 8,000 Nigerian women annually. He emphasized the importance of HPV vaccination in preventing this disease, primarily caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).

Pate announced a five-day mass vaccination campaign in schools and communities across 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory, followed by the vaccine’s inclusion in routine immunization schedules within healthcare facilities. The second phase of vaccination introduction is scheduled for May 2024 across 21 states.

Crucially, the vaccine is provided free of charge by the Federal Ministry of Health, supported by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other partners. Over 35,000 health workers have been trained to ensure comprehensive vaccine delivery in health facilities and remote areas.

Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Representative in Nigeria, emphasized the importance of this vaccination campaign in reducing the cervical cancer burden, a disease that can potentially be eradicated through vaccination.

Gavi, in a concerted effort to address global supply shortages, aims to reach over 86 million girls by 2025, potentially averting over 1.4 million future cervical cancer deaths. The Managing Director of Country Programmes Delivery at Gavi, Thabani Maphosa, stated the urgency in preventing a disease that disproportionately affects women and can be avoided with the HPV vaccine.

UNICEF has played a vital role in procuring nearly 15 million HPV vaccines for Nigeria and providing logistical support for vaccination campaigns. It has also developed informational materials to counter misinformation and conducted readiness assessments to gauge public sentiment towards HPV vaccination.

UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, highlighted the significance of the HPV vaccine in ensuring a healthier future for girls, free from the threat of cervical cancer. This initiative aspires to create a narrative of hope, resilience, and improved public health in Nigeria.

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