Medical experts have expressed worry at the level of apathy displayed by Nigerians to receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which is common among teens and young adults. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health problems, including genital warts and cancers.
HPV is transmitted by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex.
It also spreads through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. A person with HPV can pass the infection to someone even when they have no signs or symptoms
But there are vaccines that can stop these health problems from happening.
The medical experts, who spoke in Ondo, Ekiti and Osun states, said that HPV was one of the causes of cervical cancer, which has killed thousands of women.
Adefesoye Akinpelu, the director of disease control and immunisation at the Ondo State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, said that it was worrisome that some people could doubt the importance of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
“It is very pathetic that some parents and guardians are doubting and feeling reluctant towards the vaccine.
“This vaccine is so important that people at the childbearing age should take it to prevent them from having cervical cancer, which is very common among young ladies.
“So, it’s unfortunate that most teachers and stakeholders that are supposed to give the right information to the concerned people are not so conversant about this vaccine,” Akinpelu said.
He said that the Ondo State government was yet to start mass HPV vaccination, promising that the agency would continue to sensitise the people to the imminent danger of not receiving the vaccine.
“The Primary Healthcare Development Agency will continue to sensitise people and organise workshops when the implementation of the vaccine is to commence in the state.
“They will know more about the virus and the vaccine and their important role in taking the vaccine so that they will not come down with the cancer.
“We are not yet doing the campaign because we are yet to start the vaccination. The programme will start in 2024.
By the time we want to start, we will roll out a series of enlightenment programmes including meetings with traditional rulers, opinion leaders, and community influencers like we did for the COVID-19 vaccine,” he stated.
The director also decried some reports on social media discouraging people from receiving the vaccine on claims that it would prevent them from giving birth.
“There is a rumour going on in the state, that the Federal Government and some presidents in the world want to use the vaccine to cause a drastic reduction in the population of the world and that whoever takes the vaccine is going to die. This is a blatant lie.
Also speaking, the supervisor of the Mainmaret Group of Schools, Oba Ile, Lateefah Shittu, said that many parents and guardians were scared to allow their children and wards to take the HPV vaccine due to the rumour going around.
According to her, 90 percent of parents during the recent Parents Teachers Association (PTA) meeting in the school refused to authorise the vaccine being administered to their daughters.
“I think the problem is that they don’t have trust in the vaccine and in the government,” she said.
Shittu asked the government to embark on rigorous enlightenment programmes like it did for the COVID-19 vaccination and make it compulsory for the age group.
“They should do the same thing as regards this HPV vaccine. They can give certificates to those who have taken and make the certificates a criterion for common entrance examination and registration for children.
“Though some human rights activists may kick against such a suggestion, but something must be done to prevent this cancer among our young ladies. Ignorance kills a lot,” she said.
In Ekiti, the government said it had engaged in high-level enlightenment on the HPV vaccine for the girl child, to prevent cervical cancer among them.
Banji Filani, the commissioner for health and human services, said that the present administration in the state, which has healthcare as one of its cardinal programmes, was not leaving any stone unturned in ensuring adequate health for all residents.
He said that other areas of health concerns including cervical cancer were also attracting the government’s due attention.
He described cervical cancer as a preventable disease, and should not continue to cause as much morbidity and mortality as it does in some climes.
Filani said that with the knowledge that the control of cervical cancer could be achieved through health promotion, removal or reduction of modifiable risk factors associated with the disease and immunisation against the human papillomavirus, the government was not leaving any stone unturned.
Also, an Ado-Ekiti-based medical doctor, Banji Akinlabi, said that the majority of the residents appeared to still have poor knowledge of HPV and just above average had a positive attitude to cervical cancer screening.
In Osun, Isiaka Adekunle, the permanent secretary, ministry of health, said that the government embarked on awareness about the HPV vaccine in the state on October 24.
Adekunle said that at the initial stage when the administration of the vaccination started, there was some form of resistance, as people doubted the real intention of the government
He said that through regular enlightenment and the engagement of community leaders, the government was able to make the people understand the importance and purpose for the vaccine.