Lagos State registers concerning vaccine hesitancy, hindering the fight against the second most prevalent cancer among women aged 15 to 44.
In a worrisome development, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) has expressed deep concern about the strikingly low uptake of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in Southern Nigeria, particularly in Lagos state. Cervical cancer, ranking as the second most prevalent cancer among women aged 15 to 44 in Nigeria, continues to pose a significant threat, emphasizing the urgency for enhanced vaccination efforts.
NPHCDA is urgently calling on parents, caregivers, and key stakeholders to collaborate in ensuring the vaccination of all girls aged nine to 15 years. The agency emphasizes the critical role of the HPV vaccine in providing protection against cervical cancer, a disease claiming the lives of over 8,000 women in Nigeria annually.
The vaccination initiative has achieved notable success, with more than 4.5 million girls receiving the vaccine across 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Despite these strides, Lagos and some southern states are experiencing a concerning lack of acceptance, prompting a targeted appeal to parents and guardians in the region.
At a recent Women’s Health Dinner organized by TASCK Creative Agency in partnership with the Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI), Dr. Ahmed-Rufai Garba, Acting Director of Disease Control and Immunization at NPHCDA, addressed the issue of vaccine hesitancy. Dr. Garba debunked misconceptions surrounding the HPV vaccine, emphasizing its safety and efficacy in preventing cervical cancer.
While acknowledging higher vaccine utilization rates in the northern regions, Dr. Garba highlighted challenges faced in Lagos, particularly attributed to anti-vaccine campaigns influencing public perception. The agency is actively working to counter misinformation and increase vaccine uptake in the south.
The Women’s Health Dinner, attended by creative influencers and stakeholders, aimed to foster awareness and discussions on critical women’s health issues. Dr. Garba urged parents in Lagos to prioritize their daughters’ health, emphasizing that the vaccine is safe and efficient.
In a collective effort to dispel misinformation, TASCK Creative Agency, CCSI, and other organizations are rallying creative influencers to amplify accurate information about the HPV vaccine. The goal is to ensure that eligible girls receive the vaccine, contributing to the reduction of cervical cancer cases in Nigeria.
Elizabeth Hassan, the National Desk Officer for HPV vaccine introduction at NPHCDA, revealed that Nigeria is the 157th country to introduce the HPV vaccine. Despite progress, vaccine hesitancy remains a challenge, fueled by opposition from anti-vaccine campaigners.
Cervical cancer, a devastating disease, is preventable through vaccination, offering hope for a future where young girls can grow into adulthood without the looming threat of this life-threatening illness. NPHCDA is intensifying efforts to secure additional vaccines and address vaccine hesitancy, ultimately safeguarding the health of young women across the country.