Nigeria: First Ladies Lament Setback in Anti-Cervical Cancer Campaign

15 June 2021

The Nigeria's target to achieve cervical cancer elimination by 2030 as prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), may no longer be feasible.

This is because of the non-availability of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which the federal government planned to introduce into the routine immunisation programme for elimination of cervical cancer among the female population.

The immunisation programme, which was earlier scheduled for roll out in the first quarter of 2021, could not take off due to the inability to secure the HPV vaccines.

The fears was expressed by the Chairperson of the First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC), Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, at the commemoration of the Day of the African Child (DAC) 2021 held yesterday in Abuja.

Shinkafi-Bagudu, whose organisation comprises wives of the 36 state governors of the federation, said: "Nigeria and other countries have been unable to include HPV vaccines in its routine immunisation schedule despite reasonably high political will and making funds available. The planned roll out of the vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 is unlikely to happen in the near future.

"This is solely due to the unavailability of vaccine stock. Achieving cervical cancer elimination by 2030 as prescribed by WHO Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer is not feasible if this situation persists."

She said cervical cancer, which is the second most common form of cancer diagnosed in women in sub-Saharan Africa is preventable by giving HPV vaccine to girls and boys before they start sexual activity.

The chairperson, however, said global shortages in supply have exacerbated the access gap between high and low middle income countries.

She lamented that millions of girls in Africa today have no access to the HPV vaccine, leaving them vulnerable to one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer.

According to her, "It is preventable by giving HPV vaccine to girls and boys before sexual activity starts. The HPV vaccine has been available for 15 years and is available as a routine immunisation in over 71 countries, most of which are high income.

"We, therefore, call on global and national actors critical to delivering cervical cancer elimination that words must translate into actions now."

Bagudu further said: "Accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer requires global cooperation among governments, pharmaceutical industry, non-governmental bodies, and multilateral agencies."

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