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National HPV vaccination against cervical cancer to begin in 2021 – FG

Nigeria has met the condition for the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) to introduce the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) Vaccine into the National Immunization Scheme and will commence in the year 2021, the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire has said.

Currently in Nigeria, HPV vaccines are purchased out-of-pocket. They are also hard to reach especially for the indigent because of their high cost and the unavailability of an organised screening programme.

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The vaccines are highly effective in preventing persistent HPV infection and subsequent precancerous lesions due to infection with two types of HPV types 16 and 18 that cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer worldwide.

The minister speaking at a press briefing to commemorate 2020 World Cancer Day on Tuesday also informed that in line with the WHO 2030 goal to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem, the Ministry of Health, Clinton Health Access Initiative and Unitaid recently signed a two and half (2.5) year innovative grant that will bring artificial intelligence and affordable screening to fight cervical cancer.

He said Seven countries are selected namely; India, Nigeria, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Kenya and in Nigeria, three states are benefitting in the first phase.This, according to him will serve as a scale up programme to improve cervical cancer screening.

The benefitting states are Kaduna, Lagos and Rivers. Ehanire said some preliminary works have been done while training of personnel to carry out screening will commence in February, 2020 in these states.

The minister further recalled that Government is partnering the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to make 16 chemotherapy medications available at 65 percent cheaper than current market cost.

He informed that there is an ongoing engagement with other organizations to bring additional medicines including biologics and immunotherapy at less the present cost in the market.

“This is to ensure regular and unbroken supply of these drugs”, the minister said.

Ehnare added that in an effort to ameliorate the sufferings of victims, the Ministry is already in the process of developing a National Hospice and Palliative Care policy. He said it is intended to provide the best quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and their families.

The minister of state also speaking at the briefing noted that Cancer now kills more than malaria, HIV and tuberculosis combined. He said, unfortunately, low and medium income countries (LMICs) are more affected with 57 percent of new cases and 65 percent of deaths.

“In Nigeria, about 72,000 deaths occur yearly from cancer. These statistics are staggering and not acceptable and therefore, action is needed to stem the tide and avert preventable deaths from cancer in Nigeria. I wish to assure you that government is committed to using available resources to provide adequate interventions that will lead to effective treatment and prevention of cancers in Nigeria”, the minister said.

Mamora said the world cancer Day with the theme, “I am and I will’ provides all stakeholders with the opportunity to assess our performance and forge new alliances in other to confront the common enemy called cancer which is known to now kill more people than other non-communicable and communicable diseases.

 

Godsgift Onyedinefu Abuja

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