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First ladies lament absence of cancer vaccine on routine immunisation

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
16 November 2021   |   2:51 am
Wives of incumbent and former governors, under the auspices of First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC), have lamented the non-inclusion of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) cancer vaccine on routine immunisation.

[FILES] Check for skin cancer. Photo: MEDICALNEWSTODAY

Wives of incumbent and former governors, under the auspices of First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC), have lamented the non-inclusion of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) cancer vaccine on routine immunisation.

The group stated in Abuja, yesterday, that the non-inclusion of the vaccine, one year after the idea was mooted, “remains painfully unacceptable.”

Expressing worry that millions of African adolescent girls do not have access to HPV vaccination through primary healthcare structures, they added: “We had hoped that at the time of this commemoration, HPV vaccines would be available on the nation’s routine immunisation schedule. Global supply chain challenges and inequalities of access have deferred this critical milestone in our elimination roadmap.”

“Nonetheless, we are glad to see that the Federal Government is delivering on interventions within its control, like the Cancer Health Fund, which has increased access to diagnostic and treatment services across the country through six tertiary cancer care centres evenly distributed across the geo-political zones.”

FLAC insisted on demanding from the pharmaceutical industry, World Health Organisation (WHO), policymakers in high-income countries, and the African Union (AU) to prioritise girls and address the drivers of the inequity.

It disclosed: “We, at FLAC, will be at the forefront of this call to action, as we launch the FLAC Vaccine Access Programme on November 16 (today), to increase awareness, drive demand and, most of all, provide access to HPV vaccines in our states. Our vaccine access programme will catalyse access to HPV vaccine for families that can afford out-of-pocket payment in the immediate term and at the same time, advocating for the inclusion of HPV vaccine into routine immunisation to cater for those that can’t afford the out-of-pocket payment.

“We will start this with a series of town hall meetings on cervical cancer prevention, screening and awareness through our community outreach programme. These town hall events will be held in our individual states on November 17, 2021.”

It noted that its continued partnership with WHO and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) is delivering routine cervical cancer screening and treatment of pre-cancerous lesions through public health facilities to 10,000 women, following a scale-up of the CHAI-led programme to include Kebbi and Niger states.

In Nigeria, cervical cancer is the third most common form of cancer and the second most common among women. It accounted for 9.7 per cent of all malignancies in 2020, recording an estimated 12,075 new cases and 7,968 deaths yearly.

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