Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
Nigeria has introduced the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine into its routine immunization system, aiming to reach 7.7 million girls, the largest number in a single round of HPV vaccination in the African region, in a vaccination drive against the virus that causes nearly all cases of cervical cancer.
Girls aged 9–14 years will receive a single dose of the vaccine which is highly efficacious in preventing infection with HPV types 16 and 18 that are known to cause at least 70% of cervical cancers.
In Nigeria, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer and the second most frequent cause of cancer deaths among women aged between 15 and 44 years.
In 2020, the latest year for which data is available, the country recorded 12,000 new cases and 8,000 deaths from cervical cancer.
“The loss of about 8,000 Nigerian women yearly from a disease that is preventable is completely unacceptable,” the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate, said.
“Cervical cancer is mostly caused by Human Papillomavirus (HPV), and parents can avoid physical and financial pain by protecting their children with a single dose of the vaccine.
“The onset of the vaccination campaign is an opportunity to safeguard our girls from the scourge of cervical cancers many years into the future. As a parent myself, I have four daughters, all of whom have had the same HPV vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer.
“I’d like to implore fellow parents to dutifully ensure that this generation of our girls disrupt the preventable loss of lives to cervical cancer in addition to other untold hardship, loss and pain.”
UNICEF has procured nearly 15 million HPV
vaccines on behalf of the Government of
Alongside this, the children’s agency has
produced informational materials, including
radio and TV jingles in multiple local
languages to dispel misinformation and
“In our shared quest for a brighter future, the
introduction of the HPV vaccine in Nigeria
represents a monumental stride towards
safeguarding our girls from the grips of
cervical cancer. This vaccine doesn’t just
prevent disease; it promises a life where our
young women can thrive, unburdened by the
spectre of this grave health concern,” Pate added.
“UNICEF, in collaboration with the government
and other partners, is proud to be key
partners in this initiative, ensuring that every
eligible girl, irrespective of her location or
circumstances, has access to this life-saving
“Together, we are scripting a narrative of
hope, resilience, and a healthier Nigeria,”
Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative
in Nigeria said.
The vaccine is being provided for free by the Federal Ministry of Health through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners.
With support from the WHO country office in Nigeria and other partners, over 35,000 health workers have so far been trained in preparation for the campaign and subsequent vaccine delivery in all health facilities.
Vaccination sites have been established in all 4,163 wards across the 16 states included in the phase one rollout to ensure no eligible girl is left behind.
Mobile vaccination units have also been set up to ensure that remote communities can access the vaccine.