Building a National Campaign to Eliminate Cervical Cancer in Nigeria

June 5th, 2024 | news


School girls in Edo State proudly display their vaccination cards after receiving the HPV Vaccine. Photo by Dessie Mekonnen.

By Professor Amos Paul Bassi, Ahmed Mohammed Naiya, Khadjiah A. Ibrahim-Nuhu, Dessie Mekonnen, and Eliza Fishman

Cervical cancer remains the third-most common cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women ages 15–44 in Nigeria. In response to the significant threat that cervical cancer presents to women, the Nigerian government launched a comprehensive two phase campaign to introduce the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Through the two phases, the national introduction aimed to reach all 37 states starting October 2023 and concluding after the May 2024 launch.

During the first phase of the campaign, 5.3 million adolescent girls across 16 states were vaccinated against HPV. The Nigeria Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in coordination with the HPV Vaccine Acceleration Program Partners Initiative (HAPPI) Consortium and HPV technical working group (TWG) members, developed a routinization plan to continue these efforts. Phase I rollout demonstrated the need for buy-in from leaders to prioritize HPV, establish national and subnational TWGs to coordinate efforts to prepare and implement the vaccine rollout, and develop dashboards to monitor progress. Intense engagement with the Education and Women Affairs stakeholders at national and subnational levels facilitated this effort.

May 27, 2024 was National Children’s Day and the official launch of Phase II of the national HPV vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 7.7 million adolescent girls ages 9–14 across 21 states in Nigeria. Completing the national HPV vaccine rollout demonstrates a significant milestone in the fight against cervical cancer and underscores Nigeria’s commitment to prioritizing women’s health. As of June 4, 2024, over 6.6 million adolescent girls 9-14 years have been vaccinated.

First Lady of Kwara state supporting the flag off event.

First Lady of Kwara state (third from left) supporting the flag off event. Photo by Baba Mustafa.

Representatives from community, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations attended the national flag-off ceremony in Kwara State. The First Lady of Kwara State, Her Excellency Ambassador Professor Olufolake Abdulrazaq, opened the event urging stakeholders in the communities and leaders to “continue to amplify awareness and sensitization on the benefits of presenting eligible children for the vaccine.” During the launch, more than 48,000 (out of 231,617) adolescent girls were vaccinated in Kwara State alone. As of now, Kwara state was able to successfully reach all eligible adolescent girls.

JSI in partnership with CHAI, is providing support to the Government of Nigeria to accelerate HPV vaccination through the HAPPI Consortium, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. JSI’s Country Director Dr. Olawale Durosinmi-Etti, who delivered the keynote address in Kwara, emphasized the importance of social media as a tool in raising community awareness. “Social media platforms provide a critical platform with wide reach to young people and their parents/guardians with behavior change and communications approaches. They will allow us to deploy accurate information to combat rumors, myths, and misconceptions that were observed” in Phase 1.

JSI Country Director Dr. Olawale Durosinmi-Etti, gives the opening remarks at the Kwara State HPV Vaccine flag off ceremony.

JSI Country Director Dr. Olawale Durosinmi-Etti, gives the opening remarks at the Kwara State HPV Vaccine flag off ceremony. Photo by Baba Mustafa.

In Edo State, Dr. Omosigho Izedonmwen, executive secretary of the Edo State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, explained that the HPV vaccine was previously available only in some hospitals and at high cost, which made it inaccessible to many families. “Now, thanks to the efforts of the federal and state governments and our development partners, it is free for all girls ages 9 to 14 years.” He encouraged parents and caregivers to take advantage of this free, safe, and effective vaccine.

As the campaign draws to a close, the TWGs stress the need to plan for integration of the vaccine into the national immunization schedule. By prioritizing prevention through vaccination and comprehensive health care initiatives, Nigeria can significantly contribute to the elimination of cervical cancer and ensure a healthier future for all young girls.

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