Global health experts have disclosed that Nigeria is among the 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) that have commenced the implementation and performance of nationwide HPV vaccination programmes.
Rwanda was the first African country to introduce HPV vaccination in 2011. Subsequently, there has been a slow increase in the number of countries adopting the vaccine each year.
At present, only 27 countries, including Nigeria, The Gambia, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, have adopted the vaccine.
Health experts, at a virtual media event with the theme: “Progress Towards HPV Vaccination in sub-Saharan Africa,” organised by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), in commemoration of the Cervical Cancer Elimination Day of Action, said the World Health Organisation (WHO), had set targets of 90:70:90, in that, countries should aim to end cervical cancer through vaccination of 90 percent of girls, ensure that 70 per cent of women are screened and also see to it that 90 per cent of women receive treatment.
Explaining further, the senior health adviser for Immunization at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) headquarters, Dr. Phionah Atuhebwe, posited that the initiative is categorized into three targets which are the primary, secondary and tertiary targets.
Atuhebwe said, “The primary target is that 90 per cent of all girls should be fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccines by the age of 15. The secondary target is that 70 per cent of women should be screened with two high-performance screening tests, first, when they attain the age of 35, and, secondly, when they attain the age of 45. The tertiary target is that 90 per cent of women at the precancerous stage receive treatment, while 90 per cent of women who have been diagnosed with invasive cancer are managed for their pain.”
Reiterating that over 90 per cent of cervical cancer cases are recorded in Africa and that acceptance of HPV vaccines can reverse the high cervical cancer recurrence, the health adviser said, “We do not want to see the high rate of cervical cancer occurrence again because this is one of the two cancers that is preventable by the HPV vaccines. The vaccines are highly effective and efficacious and can stop 90 per cent of cervical cancers. There is no reason why we should not be able to eliminate this disease. We want to have all countries having less than 4 cases of cervical cancer per 100,000 women.”