The World Health Organisation Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo, has said it will introduce the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine in Nigeria by November, 2023. This, he said, would help to save lives.
HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, mainly transmitted through sexual contact, and most people become infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity.
Meanwhile, HPV vaccines prevent infection by certain types of Human Papillomavirus. The HPV vaccines have the potential to prevent more than 90 per cent of HPV-attributable cancers.
In Nigeria, an estimated 14,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 7,968 women die from the disease every year.
The WHO said two HPV types (16 and 18), which are common in Nigeria, were responsible for nearly 50 per cent of high-grade cervical pre-cancers.
Speaking at a media roundtable in Abuja, Mulombo said the HPV vaccine would reduce the burden of cervical cancer in Nigeria.
Mulombo added, “We will introduce the Human Papillomavirus vaccine in November this year. We need to work towards that because the burden of cervical cancer in Nigeria is huge and unacceptable.
“HPV vaccination is going to save a lot of lives, millions of lives in the future. We cannot miss that opportunity. We shouldn’t behave the way we are behaving with trans fat, tobacco products, or sugary drinks; we know they are harmful but still, we are watching.
“HPV vaccination is very effective. If it is introduced and implemented correctly, we will see that the huge burden of cervical cancer will disappear over time, when those that we are vaccinating now will become adults because it is mostly targeting adolescents.”
On March 16, 2020, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo promised that the HPV vaccines would be introduced into the national immunisation schedule in a couple of months. However, the government has yet to fulfil the promise 37 months after.
Meanwhile, some African countries like South Africa, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra-Leone, Kenya, Senegal, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Libya, Lesotho, Uganda, Botswana, and Mauritius have introduced the HPV vaccine into their routine immunisation schedules.