Cervical cancer: HURIWA endorses government’s vaccination programme 

PROMINENT Civil Rights Advocacy Group: HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has lauded the Federal government for the implementation of the upscaling the HPV vaccination in the Country just as the Rights group said the federal and state governments should embark on aggressive enlightenment programmes across the length and breath of the Country to dissuade Nigerians from believing swirling rumours of negativity about the vaccination programme. 

HURIWA in a media statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko,  expressed disappointment that such a very laudable initiative is being allowed by the relevant agencies of the central government to be characterised by the spreading of unscientific rumours and superstitious beliefs by a largely ignorant discussants on several social media channels who are poisoning the minds of Nigerian rural parents from letting their teenage girls present themselves for the vaccination programme. 

HURIWA is appealing to the Federal Ministry of Health, the federal ministry of information,  National Orientation Agency and the state information ministries and the mass media to team up with the authorities in the central and state governments to educate, inform and enlighten Nigerians especially young rural parents, about the values of the vaccination programme for the girls/daughters.

HURIWA in the statement, affirmed thus: “Cervical cancer is a malignant disease affecting the female reproductive system. It is the fourth most common cancer affecting women globally, with more prevalence within the low and middle-income countries. Due to its insidious course, it is mostly undetected during the early stages for as much and progress to become agonizingly fatal.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract. At some point in their lives, most sexually active women and men would be infected, with some repeatedly infected. However, more than 90% of the population clears the infection, while some become asymptomatic carriers. HPV, particularly the “high risk” types – 16 and 18, have been noted to be responsible for almost 50 percent of the cases of cervical pre-cancers as well as anal and oropharyngeal cancers. HPV, which is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, have other “low risk” types that have been associated with benign growths like genital warts.

HURIWA said also that: “HPV infection poses a risk for all women of sexual age, as repeated infection predisposes them to chronic pre-cancerous lesions which easily progress to invasive cervical cancer. It takes 15 – 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune system, and less than half of that time in women with weakened immune system such as those with untreated HIV infection. Due to its relatively long and insidious course, HPV and its damage to the cervix is not detected early enough, until it has become cancerous and fatal. However, this infection is both preventable and curable at the early stages.

HURIWA said: “HPV Vaccination has been cited as a highly effective measure for the prevention of the infection with the HPV types that cause cervical cancer. Three HPV vaccines are currently available for the prevention and eradication of HPV infections. These vaccines, the nonavalent Gardasil-9, the quadrivalent Gardasil-4 and the bivalent Cervarix, are highly efficacious in preventing infection caused by HPV types 16 and 18. However, these vaccines must be administered before exposure to HPV, as it does not treat existing HPV infection. Therefore, the HPV vaccination programme is primarily targeted at young adolescent girls, aged 9 – 14 and up to 26 years. Although it can be administered up to the age of 45 years, vaccination is not effective for women beyond 26 years as such women are already exposed to HPV and the cervical lesion is likely to have already set in.

The Rights group affirmed that: “HPV vaccination offers several important benefits. As already stated, the vaccines offer protection against the most common high risk HPV types – 16 and 18, that are responsible for the majority of the cervical cancer cases. It also reduces the risk of other HPV-related cancers such as anal, oropharyngeal and vaginal cancers. Widespread HPV vaccination proffers a societal protection against HPV infection in the form of herd immunity, thereby reducing the overall prevalence of HPV in the population and invariably protecting unvaccinated individuals. Consequently, there will be significant reduction in the healthcare costs as well as reduction in the morbidity and mortality associated with HPV-related diseases such as genital warts and cervical cancer.

HURIWA expressed shock that despite all these benefits that can be derived from HPV Vaccination, there seem to be a lot of hesitancy and disinterest shown towards the vaccination programme. This widespread hesitancy stems from some myths and misconceptions regarding the HPV vaccination. Some people believe that HPV vaccination encourages promiscuity, and that women who receive the vaccine are prone to engage in risky sexual behaviour. Such claims are baseless, as there is no evidence to suggest that receiving HPV vaccine encourages risky sexual behaviour. Rather, the purpose of the vaccine is to build immunity against HPV and hence, prevent HPV-related cancers.

HURIWA says: “Also, some believe that HPV vaccines are unsafe and contain harmful components that can adversely affect the body tissues. It is important to note that these vaccines have undergone extensive safety testing and are continually monitored. They are generally safe and associated with few serious side effects. Similarly, some believe that the vaccine causes infertility. However, there is no scientific evidence linking HPV vaccines to infertility.

HURIWA  recalled that “On 24th October, 2023, Nigeria introduced the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into its routine immunization programme with the aim of reaching over 7.7 million girls. The programme aims to vaccinate girls aged 9 – 14 years with a single dose of the vaccine. A 5-day mass vaccination campaign is the be carried out in schools and communities during the inaugural roll-out in 16 states and the Federal Capital Territory, and subsequently be incorporated into the routine immunization schedules within health facilities. The second phase of the vaccination is set to start in May 2024 in 21 states. 

HURIWA applauded the fact that “These vaccines are being provided for free by the Federal Ministry of Health, through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.”


-November 10, 2023 @ 16:45 GMT |