HPV vaccine, the cervical cancer prevention most Nigerian women don’t know

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Despite the high prevalence of Human Papilloma Virus infections and cervical cancer in Nigeria, women seem ignorant of the HPV vaccine which researchers have described as “highly effective preventive measure.”

A study led by Adaobi I. Bisi-Onyemaechi, of the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu, and published in scientific journal, Springer, states that 508 caregivers of female children were interviewed, and less than half [221 or 43.5 per cent] of them knew about HPV.

“Among these, only 163 knew how HPV is transmitted,” the study states.

“Only 12 (2.4 per cent) of the caregivers know that an HPV infection is a major risk factor for cervical cancer,” Bisi-Onyemaechi laments.

Continuing, she states, “Among the 221 participants who knew the meaning of HPV, 132 (59.7 per cent) were aware of an HPV vaccine; and only 26 (19.7 per cent) of those aware of a vaccine agreed it can effectively prevent cervical cancer.”

“Lack of awareness about the vaccine and accessibility were the major reasons given by parents on why the vaccine has not been received by their female children,” Bisi-Onyemaechi says.

The researchers note that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus and it is estimated that about 75 per cent of sexually active women and men will acquire a genital HPV infection at some time.

“HPV is known to affect adult and children alike and over 100 types of the HPV has been identified over the past few decades,” she warns.

According to the World Health Organisation, globally, cervical cancer is a major public health problem, as over 560,000 new cases and about 275,000 deaths are recorded each year, with more than 80per cent occurring in developing countries.

 The global health body says cervical cancer is the most common gynaecological cancer among women in sub-Saharan Africa, and that an estimated 70,722 new cases of invasive cervical cancer occur annually in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Nigeria and second to breast cancer among its female population, the researchers say.

One of the preventive measures is the vaccination of pre-adolescents against oncogenic HPV, as the vaccines are approved for administration to persons aged 9–26 years, they add.

“The target is to commence the vaccine among young children before they become sexually active,” Bisi-Onyemaechi says.

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