Nigeria will launch the administration of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls aged 9 to 14 on October 24 in a bid to protect the health of young girls.
This vaccine is expected to empower them to lead healthy lives for a better future.
But are there risks you are concerned about which can stop you from embracing this intervention?
Here are some answers.
What is HPV?
Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection, has been a silent harbinger of several types of cancers, including cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women in Nigeria and the second most common cause of cancer-related fatalities among women aged 15 to 49.
Nigeria alone contributes an estimated 12,075 new cases of global cervical cancer annually.
HPV infection has been identified as a high-risk factor, implicated in 95 per cent of cervical cancer cases. With 12,000 new diagnoses and 8,000 lives claimed each year, it translates to 33 new cervical cancer cases and 22 deaths daily in our nation.
In Nigeria, a life is lost every two minutes to this preventable disease, which ranks among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in 36 countries, including Nigeria.
This is why introducing the HPV vaccine is a beacon of hope in our relentless fight against the burden of cervical cancer.
By immunizing girls early, we aim to shield them from the most common HPV strains responsible for cervical cancer in later life.
The HPV vaccine has been scientifically proven to be safe and effective in preventing HPV infection and reducing the risk of cervical cancer.
Many countries in the Western and African regions have already integrated this vaccine into their immunization schedules.
The introduction of the HPV vaccine in Senegal in 2018 resulted in a remarkable 90 per cent reduction in high-grade cervical abnormalities among vaccinated women, demonstrating the vaccine’s undeniable effectiveness.
Similarly, Ghana’s commitment to vaccinating against HPV has achieved impressive coverage rates of 99.5 per cent and 94.7 per cent among eligible girls.
Is it safe to get vaccinated against the Human-Papilloma Virus (HPV)?
Yes. The Human-Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccines are safe and effective at protecting against cervical cancer, one of the leading causes of death in women in the Americas.
Since the vaccine came on the market in 2006, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GAVCS) has reviewed the scientific evidence on the safety of HPV vaccines. To date, no safety issues have been found. The GAVCS considers HPV vaccines safe and found the events related to them to be mild or moderate and resolved independently.
It is also important to remember that all women between 30 and 49 should be screened for cervical cancer at least once.
Does the vaccine against HPV encourage risky sexual behaviour among adolescents who receive it?
No. Multiple studies have shown that girls who are vaccinated against HPV are not more likely to engage in sexual activity at an earlier age than those who are not vaccinated.
Does the HPV vaccine make you infertile?
No. Although this myth has received much attention in the media, WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GAVCS) has extensively reviewed the available scientific evidence. It has concluded that there is no relationship between HPV vaccination and infertility.
Can the HPV vaccines produce neurological problems in girls who get vaccinated?
No. Scientific studies and the revisions conducted by WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GAVCS) have shown that getting the HPV vaccine does not increase the risk of developing neurological problems.
Do the HPV vaccines cause fainting and loss of consciousness in girls who get vaccinated?
No. There are stories about girls fainting right before or after getting vaccinated against HPV. These symptoms, also known as syncope, are related to anxiety or stress about the injection. These reactions can occur during the injection of any other vaccine or medicine or during other medical procedures.
Do HPV vaccines reduce the risk of blood clots?
No. Scientific studies have ruled out a causal association between the HPV vaccines and blood clots. Many different things can cause blood clots, and this can happen to anyone. Getting vaccinated against HPV does not increase the risk of getting blood clots.
Do HPV vaccines cause complex regional pain syndrome?
No. HPV vaccines can be a painful injection to receive, but the pain at the site of the injection goes away on its own. According to the scientific evidence revisions by WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GAVCS), there is no evidence that CRPS – a rare event with no known cause – develops due to the vaccine.