The Federal Government of Nigeria has introduced the Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, vaccine into its routine immunization system, to protect over 7.7 million girls between aged 9 to 14 years as part of Renewed Health Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The Coordinating Minister of Health & Social Welfare, Muhammad Ali Pate said: “The loss of about 8,000 Nigerian women yearly from a disease that is preventable is completely unacceptable”.
“Cervical cancer is mostly caused by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), and parents can avoid physical and financial pain by protecting their children with a single dose of the vaccine.”
Pate stated that the onset of the vaccination campaign is an opportunity to safeguard Nigerian girls from the scourge of cervical cancers many years into the future.
Nigerian girls aged 9–14 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.
The minister announced 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 second phase of the vaccination introduction is set to start in May 2024 in 21 states.
The vaccine will afterward be incorporated into routine immunization schedules within health facilities.
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 (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) 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 4163 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 WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo recommends that HPV vaccination is included in the national immunization programmes of countries where cervical cancer is a public health priority, and where its cost-effective and sustainable implementation is feasible.
As such, Nigeria has prioritized the addition of the vaccine to the country’s routine immunization schedule.
The Managing Director of County Programmes Delivery at Gavi, Thabani Maphosa said: "Every day, cervical cancer inflicts profound loss and devastation on families across Nigeria. It also disproportionately impacts the lives of women. And yet, it is a disease that can be prevented".
With the HPV vaccine now available in Nigeria for eligible adolescent girls at no cost, communities now have the most effective tool to fight cervical cancer and the nation has an opportunity, collectively to save millions of lives.
To support these efforts in Nigeria and in line with its goal to build sustainable immunization programmes, Gavi is co-financing the cost of the vaccines and providing technical support for the introduction.