By Oluwafunke Ishola
The Lagos State Primary Health Care Board (LSPHCB) says it has administered Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to 40 per cent of targeted girls in Lagos.
The Permanent Secretary of LSPHCB, Dr Ibrahim Mustafa, spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos on Wednesday.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted virus, with the majority of cervical cancers and other HPV-associated cancers caused by HPV types 16 or 18.
NAN reports that the Federal Government on Oct.
24, 2023 introduced the HPV vaccine into the routine immunisation system to prevent cervical cancer among girls aged nine to 14 years.
The vaccination targets 7.
7 million girls, which is the largest number in a single round of HPV vaccination in the African region.
The girls 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.
Lagos is among the 16 states in Nigeria slated for the Phase 1 introduction of the HPV vaccine through Multi-Age Campaign style strategies targeting girls aged nine to 14 years in schools and communities.
30, Lagos State introduced HPV vaccines into its routine immunisation programme.
Mustafa, however, noted that the state’s HPV vaccination programme suffered low uptake after its introduction due to misinformation that led to vaccine hesitancy and apathy.
“The coverage is still low, we expect that by now, we would have done 100 per cent of the targeted girls but we’ve only managed to do 40 per cent.
“Initially, there were serious challenges with the programme to the extent that they almost beat some of the vaccine implementers.
“There was a WhatsApp message that went viral that the vaccine will sterilise, kill the girls, and depopulate blacks.
“That voice note caused a lot of harm, people didn’t want to hear about the vaccine.
Even in schools, they shut their gates against us.
“It’s unfortunate that people were against the HPV vaccine, and because of that, our other immunisation campaigns like the oral polio vaccine that had acceptance, people started rejecting it,” he said.
To remedy the situation, Mustafa told NAN that the board embarked on a massive media campaign, intensified its advocacy and dispelled the rumours and misinformation about the vaccine.
According to him, there is currently an improvement and attitudinal change to the vaccine, hoping that the improvement will be sustained.
Toward boosting HPV vaccine coverage in the state, Mustafa disclosed that the HPV vaccine would be integrated into the state’s National Immunisation Plus Day (NIPD) programme.
NIPD is aimed at protecting children below five years of age from Poliomyelitis and scheduled to commence on Nov.
25 in Lagos.
Mustafa added that people can still get the HPV vaccines at PHCs even after the campaign ends until the end of 2024.
He emphasised that the vaccine was free and delivers solid protection against HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), shows that 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.
According to WHO, Nigeria recorded 12,000 new cases and 8000 deaths from cervical cancer in 2020.
Edited by Vivian Ihechu