Dr Kwis Samuel, a Radiation and Clinical Oncologist at Asi Ukpo Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Calabar, says Nigeria can reduce cervical cancer prevalence nationwide by 98 per cent through vaccination.
He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Calabar during the launch of free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination for girls between nine and 14 years in Cross River.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus which usually shows no symptoms but sometimes cause serious diseases like cervical, anal, and vaginal cancers, among others.
The HPV vaccination which took place in the premises of the ultra-modern Cancer Centre was in partnership with Pink Africa Foundation, Act Foundation and the Government of Cross River, among other collaborators.
NAN reports that more than 250 girls from primary and secondary schools across the state were vaccinated against HPV, a leading cause of cervical cancer.
The oncologist said vaccination against the virus is necessary because only two per cent of cervical cancer cases are not associated with HPV, adding that it is a powerful step toward prevention.
He also added that global figure shows that in 2020, there were about 600,000 new cases of cervical cancer, with about 340,000 deaths.
He said that “in this figure, about 90 per cent of the deaths were in low and middle income countries.
“In Nigeria, research shows that there are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases annually and out of which, more than 50 per cent may eventually die from the disease.
“The focus of the HPV vaccination, therefore, is young girls because cervical cancer unlike other cancers has a known cause, which is HPV, commonly contracted during unprotected sexual activities.”
The oncologist then lauded the Federal Government’s step of making HPV vaccines available in 16 pilot states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) so as to check the spread of the virus.
On her part, Mrs Enyoawan Otu, Wife of the Governor of Cross River, said immunising young girls would help to break the devastating circle of cervical cancer.
Otu, who was represented by Dr Comfort Okon, her Senior Special Assistant on Administration, said thousands of women are suffering from cervical cancer worldwide, adding that taking proactive measures to safeguard the health and future of girls is highly commendable.
“Cancer is a silent killer, often detected at an advance stage when treatment options are limited.
“So, providing HPV vaccines for the girls is securing their future by about 90 per cent,” she said.
On her part, Dr Nchiewe Ani, the President of the Pink Africa Foundation, said cervical cancer is among the leading causes of cancer deaths among women, only second to breast cancer.
Ani, who was represented by Mrs Gedah Etafia, the Secretary to the foundation, said “the introduction of HPV vaccines is not just a medical advancement, but a global beacon.”
She said that the target is to protect women and girls from a future of pain associated with cervical cancer.
She urged parents and leaders at all levels to sensitise the public on the benefits of the HPV vaccine and ensure every eligible girl-child between the age of nine and 14 is vaccinated.
Some of the secondary school students who took the vaccine told NAN that they were happy being immunised against cervical cancer.
NAN reports that the schools that participated in the HPV vaccination include the Holy Child Secondary School, Edgerly Memorial Girls secondary, Government Secondary School, Akim, Big Qua Girls Secondary School.(NAN)