Dr Kwis Samuel, a Radiation and Clinical Oncologist with Asi Ukpo Comprehensive Cancer Centre, Calabar has disclosed that Nigeria could reduce cervical cancer prevalence in the nation by 98 per cent through the vaccination of all its girls
Samuel made the assertion in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Calabar during a free Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination of girls between 9 and 14 years in Cross River.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus which usually shows no symptoms but sometimes causes serious diseases like cervical, anal, and vaginal cancers among others.
The exercise which took place on 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 the exercise saw the vaccination of over 250 girls from primary and secondary schools across the state against HPV which was a leading cause of cervical cancer.
The oncologist said vaccination against HPV was necessary because only two per cent of cervical cancer cases were not associated with HPV adding that, it would be a powerful step towards prevention.
According to him “global figure shows that in 2020, there were about 600,000 new cases of cervical cancer, with about 340,000 deaths.
“In this figure, about 90 per cent of the deaths were in low and middle-income countries and Nigeria, research shows that there are about 12,000 new cervical cancer cases annually out of which more than 50 per cent of this number may eventually die from the disease.
“The focus of the vaccine is on young girls because cervical cancer unlike other cancers has a known cause which is HPV commonly contracted during unprotected sexual activities,” he said.
He added that the Federal Government’s step of making HPV vaccines available in 16 pilot states including Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was a laudable one to check the spread of the virus.
On her part, Mrs Enyoawan Otu Wife of the Governor of Cross River who was represented by Dr Comfort Okon, her Senior Special Assistant on Administration, said by immunising young girls early, the devastating circle of cervical cancer could be broken.
Otu said cervical cancer affects thousands of women worldwide, adding that it was vital that they started taking proactive measures to safeguard the health and future of the girl child.
“This cancer is a silent killer often detected at an advanced stage when treatment options are limited, so, providing HPV vaccines for the girls is securing their future against this cancer by about 90 per cent,” she said.
On her part, Dr Nchiewe Ani, President of the Pink Africa Foundation said cervical cancer was among the leading causes of cancer deaths among Nigerian women, only second to breast cancer.
Represented by Mrs Gedah Etafia, Secretary to the foundation, she said the introduction of HPV vaccines was not just a medical advancement but a global beacon of hope for women and girls who could be shielded from a future of pain associated with cervical cancer.
She urged parents and leaders at all levels to sensitise the people around them to the benefits of the HPV vaccines, while ensuring that every eligible girl child between the ages of 9 and 14 gets vaccinated.
Some of the children in Secondary schools who took the vaccines and spoke to NAN said the pinch from the needles was a little painful but they were happy being immunised because it was protecting them from cervical cancer in the future.