Cervical Cancer: Govt to begin national HPV immunisation by 2021

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Cervical Cancer expert, Dr. Faisal Shuaib

THE Federal Government says it will commence immunisation against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) for cervical cancer in 2021.

At a Virtual National Stakeholders’ Forum on the Elimination of Cervical Cancer on Friday, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, said that the immunisation would be on a national scale by the first quarter of 2021.

The National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP) of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), organized the virtual meeting, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health International Vaccine Access Centre and Direct Consulting and Logistics.

According to him, what should concern stakeholders is how to eliminate barriers to availability of HPV vaccine that has been around for over 10 years.

He said, “we have to crush the barriers that prevent us from accessing this vaccine, such as HPV when it is available anywhere in the world.

“Africa should not always wait for decades to get solution that is available globally, not just in Africa but in Nigeria specifically.

“We at the NPHCDA are committed; we are committed to deliver HPV vaccine to our communities.”

The executive director added that the agency was determined to get the vaccine to the people, and added that nothing could stop from achieving that.

According to him, “it took a long time for us to get here, we are going to finish and cross the line like we did for polio eradication.

“The Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the NPHCDA, is in the forefront of driving local vaccine production through our joint venture agreement with May and Baker.

“It is one of the interventions that the FMoH is putting in place to make sure that we don’t need to wait for decades to prevent such terrible disease.”

Shuaib said the agency had improved routine immunisation in the past two years, doubling coverage from 32 per cent in 2016 to 67 per cent in 2019.

The Executive Director said: “When we introduce HPV vaccine in the first quarter 2021, we will ramp up coverage in the first approach.

“It is not just vaccine that matters, we are introducing this as part of our post COVID-19 strategy and we are ramping up our pre-cancer screening in primary health care centres.

“We are building the capacity of primary health workers so that they will be able to carry out simple screening and breast examination for breast cancer.

“But also on annual basis, we are trying to build the capacity of health workers so that they can do simple examinations of the cervix if there is any indication that they are abnormal.

“The workers will then be able to encourage women to do Pap Smear test on annual basis.”

He said NPHCDA was passionate about so many things and that “introducing vaccine against cervical cancer and other cancers is a priority for us.

“It is priority and ensuring screening for cervical cancer is a model we are introducing as re-emerging in the post COVID-19 era.”

The founder of Medicaid Cancer Foundation and the wife of the Governor of Kebbi State, Dr Zainab Bagudu, said the world was moving toward elimination of cancer and that Nigeria should not be left behind.

She said, “for us in Kebbi, we may not have high technology, but we have the awareness and the human resources at Primary Health Care centres.”

Dr Chizoba Wonodi of the John Hopkins International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC), said the objectives of the meeting was to share latest updates on the global push toward the elimination of cancer and promote increased understanding of the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders at all levels.

Cervical cancer is a deadly disease that affects over 14,000 women and 8,000 deaths due to late presentation at health facilities annually, making it the second leading cause of cancer death in women aged 15 to 44 years in Nigeria.

The main cause of cervical cancer is the HPV, which could be eliminated using: HPV vaccination, screening for pre-cancerous lesions and, treatment of invasive cancer.

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