Lagos Targets 1m Young Girls By December

Lagos Targets 1m Young Girls By December

The Lagos state government is targeting the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination of 1,062,427 girls between the ages of nine to 14 years in the state by December 2024.

This is even as experts have urged parents and guardians to ensure that their daughters within the age bracket are jabbed, as the vaccine is safe and are given without cost at all public health facilities in Lagos State.

Immunisation programmes coordinator, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board (PHCB), Adetola Akinpelu, at a two-day media dialogue on HPV vaccine on Wednesday in Lagos, averred that the state is targeting HPV vaccination of 1,062,427 girls, representing 80 per cent, between nine to 14 years by December 2024.

Akinpelu said the state had so far recorded success stories with the HPV vaccination campaign, as it has vaccinated 44.8 per cent of the targeted population.

He called on parents to ensure that their girls within the age bracket are vaccinated as soon as possible, adding that by 2025, the focus will be on girls aged nine only.

“The Gardasil vaccine is expensive and out of the reach for most parents in Lagos. The state government is providing this vaccine free of charge. One of the reasons why Gardasil HPV vaccine was selected is the fact that it is a one dose vaccine that offers a life long protection,” he affirmed.

He revealed that the HPV vaccination was still ongoing, adding that, “We are still vaccinating young girls aged nine to 14 years old. Though we no longer take the vaccine to schools or place of worship, but parents can bring their young girls to any public hospitals (Primary Healthcare Centres, Secondary and Tertiary Hospitals, including military and paramilitary health clinics) in Lagos state, to get jabbed against cervical cancer. I am using this medium to appeal to parents to ensure they bring their girls before it’s too late. We are hopeful that by the end of 2024, we would have vaccinated every young girls within the age bracket.”

While about 21 states will commence rollout of HPV vaccine, starting 27th of May, 2024, Akinpelu advised that, rumour and misconceptions around the HPV vaccine should be tackled prior rollout.

He advised other states who are yet to begin rollout of the HPV vaccination, to start by embarking on massive campaign against all rumor about the vaccine that are currently ongoing in their various states.

“They should not ignore those rumors. They should try and anticipate people’s bias and belief based on previous campaigns and be proactive enough to come up with strategies to overcome them.

“The success we have recorded so far, did not come without challenge, as the state encountered rumours and misconceptions about the Gardasil vaccine, at the introductory phase of rolling out of the vaccine. The rumors and misconceptions springed up from several angles including some healthcare practitioners. This negatively impacted people’s mindset against the vaccine. People were insinuating that the vaccine was targeting young girls to make them infertile and to reduce the population,” he averred.

He said the Lagos state government was able to counter these rumors with the state’s risk communication team, by ensuring that the right message as regards the HPV vaccine for cervical cancer prevention is out there.

In the same vein, health specialist at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Dr Ijeoma Agbo has dispelled myths, rumors, and false information on HPV vaccinations for girls around the nation, stating that the vaccine is still the most reliable way to prevent cervical cancer in women and girls.

Agbo disclosed that the HPV vaccine was intended for girls between the ages of nine and 14, while disclosing that the vaccine would ensure that the targeted girls do not get infected with cervical cancer.

According to Agbo, an estimate of 604,000 new cases with 342,000 deaths occurred globally in 2020, while 12,075 cases and 7,968 deaths were recorded in Nigeria. She said that HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract and caused more than 95 per cent of cases of cervical cancer.

The UNICEF health specialist, who noted that HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and cost-free, averred that there was an urgent need for all stakeholders to come together to sensitise Nigerians on its importance.

In his remarks, the programme manager, UNICEF, Mr Muhammad Okorie, highlighted that the media dialogue was an opportunity to sensitise the public about the advantages of proven global interventions in the prevention of HPV through vaccination.

Additionally, it was a chance to dispel public doubts about the vaccine and reach a larger audience through the media, Okorie affirmed, while asking for greater cooperation to ensure the immunization program’s success and acknowledged the media’s contribution to raising public awareness of the HPV vaccine.

In order to promote the advantages of HPV vaccine and debunk myths and misconceptions about it, efforts must be directed toward greater knowledge, especially at the grassroots level, the communication officer for UNICEF, Blessing Ejiofor, stated.

In order to secure sufficient coverage and eradicate cervical cancer from the country, Ejiofor urged the attending journalists to take an active advocacy role by using their networks to bring attention to the issue.

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