Awka, Nigeria – In a significant move to combat the rising prevalence of cervical, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers, the Federal Government of Nigeria has announced its plans to introduce a new anti-cancer vaccine called the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into the national immunization schedule. Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), made the disclosure during the quarterly review meeting of the South-East Traditional Rulers Committee on primary healthcare delivery.
Addressing the audience, Dr. Shuaib emphasized the urgent need to tackle the impact of HPV-related diseases. He highlighted that HPV is a commonly transmitted infection that can have severe health implications, including the development of various types of cancers. Not only does it take a physical toll on individuals, but it also affects them emotionally, impacting both individuals and families across Nigerian society. The introduction of the HPV vaccine into the national immunization schedule aims to address this pressing health issue.
Representing Dr. Shuaib at the event, Dr. Bassey Okposen Bassey, the Director of Disease Control and Immunization at NPHCDA, underscored the importance of engaging with traditional rulers in strengthening primary healthcare facilities and enhancing reproductive, maternal, child, and adolescent health services across the South-East region. He commended the traditional rulers for their active involvement in championing primary healthcare delivery within their respective communities.
Dr. Bassey added, “As part of our efforts to strengthen primary healthcare facilities and enhance reproductive, maternal, child, and adolescent health services across the states, we recently launched and initiated the roll-out of the Community-Based Health Research Innovative-Training and Service Program.” This program aims to optimize human resources for health, reduce maternal and newborn mortality rates, and enhance the capacity of primary healthcare facilities by recruiting skilled birth attendants, medical officers of health, and deploying CRISP resident doctors.
Highlighting the significance of the upcoming vaccine introduction, Dr. Bassey stated, “Also worthy to note is that the Federal Government, in collaboration with our development partners, will be introducing the Human Papillomavirus vaccine into the national immunization schedule in 2023 and 2024.” He urged the traditional rulers to actively support immunization activities, raise awareness, and mobilize their communities. By leveraging their influence and credibility, they can inspire positive health-seeking behaviors and promote preventive measures.
The event was declared open by the Anambra State deputy governor, Dr. Onyekachukwu Ibezim, who represented the governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo. In his address, Dr. Ibezim emphasized that developing a robust healthcare system is a strong pillar of the state government’s agenda. He reiterated their commitment to ensuring the healthcare system in the state functions effectively.
Dr. Walter Mulambo, the Country Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO), also spoke at the event. He acknowledged the progress made in improving immunization coverage but stressed the need to address the issue of “zero dose children” who have not received routine vaccinations. Despite the improvement in immunization coverage, there are still children who have missed vaccinations and have never received any doses of routine immunization. Efforts should be made to reach and protect these vulnerable populations.
Dr. Mulambo also highlighted the enormous work that has gone into containing variant strains of the polio virus, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in reported cases compared to the same period in the previous year. He urged the South-East region and the entire country to sustain this achievement and work towards a poliovirus-free Nigeria and Africa.
The Chairman of the South-East Council of Traditional Rulers and the Enugu State Council of Traditional Rulers, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, expressed his appreciation for the initiative and pledged the commitment of traditional rulers to drive primary healthcare in their respective communities. He recognized the vital role that traditional rulers play as critical stakeholders in healthcare delivery.
The event brought together traditional rulers from Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia, and Ebonyi states, as well as key stakeholders in the health sector. The introduction of the HPV vaccine into the national immunization schedule reflects the government’s dedication to improving public health and addressing the challenges posed by HPV-related diseases in Nigeria. By integrating this vaccine into routine immunization, the government aims to protect individuals and families across the country from the detrimental effects of HPV, contributing to a healthier population overall.