The Nigerian government has unveiled its intentions to introduce vital Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines as a safeguard for teenage girls against cervical cancer and related illnesses,Premium Times reports.

During the bi-annual review meeting of religious leaders on Primary Health Care Delivery held in Abuja on Monday, Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), made this announcement. He revealed that the government is set to initiate the distribution of HPV vaccines on September 25th, targeting girls aged 9 to 15.

Mr. Shuaib stressed the link between HPV and cervical cancer, a disease that affects mothers, sisters, and daughters. He emphasized the significance of the HPV vaccine in preventing cervical cancer when administered to girls in the 9 to 15 age group.

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HPV and Cervical Cancer Cervical cancer, a form of cancer that develops in a woman’s cervix, ranks as the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide. In 2018 alone, it was responsible for an estimated 311,000 global deaths. Research published in The Lancet also warns that over 44 million women worldwide are at risk of developing cervical cancer between 2020 and 2069. The report further predicts a 50% rise in cervical cancer deaths by 2040, affecting numerous women, their families, and communities.

While the precise causes of cervical cancer remain elusive, research has identified 14 out of 100 Human Papillomavirus (HPV) strains as responsible for approximately 99% of cervical cancer cases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HPV types 16 and 18 are linked to at least 70% of cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions. Additionally, evidence suggests that HPV is associated with cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, and oropharynx.

WHO estimates that cervical cancer could become the first cancer to be eradicated if 90% of girls receive the HPV vaccine, 70% of women undergo screening, and 90% of those diagnosed receive appropriate treatment.

Mr. Shuaib underscored the importance of HPV vaccination, referring to it as not just a medical milestone but also a testament to unity in preserving life.

Involvement of Religious Leaders Mr. Shuaib emphasized the pivotal role of religious leaders in reaching every corner of the nation. He acknowledged that religious leaders possess the authority to convey essential information capable of influencing behavior, dispelling misconceptions, and promoting preventive measures.

He urged religious leaders to collaborate with the medical community in championing the cause of HPV vaccination across the country. By doing so, they would become advocates for life and guardians of health within their congregations.

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, echoed the importance of blending spirituality with scientific knowledge to address the nation’s healthcare challenges. He highlighted the role of religious leaders in raising awareness about free HPV vaccines, dispelling myths, and encouraging healthier behaviors among their congregations.

Mr. Pate acknowledged the contributions of faith communities to healthcare delivery and urged them to continue supporting the government’s healthcare agenda, which aims to make healthcare affordable and accessible to all Nigerians.

Collaboration The President-General of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Sa’ad Abubakar III, pledged the support of traditional and religious leaders in delivering accurate information to the public. He stressed their readiness to work with the government on health-related issues.

The National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Daniel Okoh, noted the increasing attention given to Primary Health Care in Nigeria. He highlighted the influence of religious leaders, stating that many Nigerians still turn to them for guidance on health matters. Archbishop Okoh expressed optimism that initiatives like these would make improved healthcare accessible, especially to those in rural areas.


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