Nigeria on Tuesday introduced the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into its routine immunization system, targeting 7.7 million girls aged 9-14 years in preventing at least 70% of cervical cancer cases.
Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most frequent cause of cancer deaths among women aged 15-44 years in Nigeria. In 2020, the country recorded 12,000 new cases and 8,000 deaths from cervical cancer.
The introduction of the HPV vaccine into the routine immunization system is a major step forward in Nigeria’s fight against cervical cancer. The vaccine will be free to all eligible girls through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, WHO, and other partners.
The vaccine will be initially rolled out in 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory, with the remaining 21 states to follow in May 2024. Over 35,000 health workers have been trained to deliver the vaccine, and vaccination sites have been established in all 4,163 wards across the 16 states included in the phase one rollout. Mobile vaccination units have also been set up to reach remote communities.
The WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, called the introduction of the HPV vaccine “a pivotal moment in Nigeria’s efforts to lower the burden of cervical cancer.” He said that WHO is committed to supporting the government to increase access to the vaccine and protect the health and well-being of the next generation of women.
The Managing Director of Country programme delivery at Gavi, Thabani Maphosa, said that every day, cervical cancer inflicts profound loss and devastation on families across Nigeria. He said that the HPV vaccine is the most effective tool to fight cervical cancer and that Nigeria has an opportunity to save millions of lives by vaccinating its girls.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said that the introduction of the HPV vaccine in Nigeria is a monumental stride towards safeguarding girls from the grips of cervical cancer. He said that UNICEF is proud to be a key partner in this initiative, ensuring that every eligible girl has access to this life-saving intervention.
The introduction of the HPV vaccine into the routine immunization system is a major victory for the people of Nigeria. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the government, its partners, and the Nigerian people. The vaccine will save countless lives and help to build a healthier future for Nigeria.