First Ladies Against Cancer, FLAC, has sent an urgent message to the WHO about cervical cancer vaccines for girls.
FLAC, a group created by the Governor’s wives urge the World Health Organization to make the vaccines available for every girl child.
This call was made following the alarming rise in the case of cervical cancer in Nigeria.
They urged the WHO, pharmaceutical companies and policymakers in high-income countries to prioritize the HPV vaccines.
They suggested the primary health infrastructure as the first point.
FLAC said it was unacceptable that Nigerian and African adolescents do not have access to the HPV vaccines. Especially through the PHC structures.
The group made this known at the pre-launch of the ‘FLAC Access Programme’ on Tuesday, November 16.
The programme held in Abuja targets the distribution of HPV vaccines across Nigeria.
“It remains painfully unacceptable that millions of Nigerian and African adolescent girls do not have access to HPV vaccination through our primary healthcare structures.
“We must place a demand on the pharmaceutical industry, WHO, policymakers in high-income countries, and the African Union to prioritize our girls and address the drivers of this inequity.
“We at FLAC will be at the forefront of this call to action. As we launch the “FLAC Vaccine Access Programme” on the 16th of November. This aims to increase awareness, drive demand, and most of all provide access to HPV vaccines in our states,” FLAC said.
FLAC explains that the group will establish;
· Access to HPV vaccine for families that can afford out of pocket payment.
· Advocate for the inclusion of HPV vaccine into routine immunization.
The goal is to balance access to the HPV for those who can afford the out-of-pocket payment and those who can’t.
The group explained that the Global Strategy to Speed up the Elimination of Cervical Cancer by the WHO started one year ago.
FLAC also commended “the renewed commitment of all cervical cancer advocates in Nigeria.” They are:
i. the Federal Ministry of Health.
ii. International partners.
iii. Indigenous partners.
The group expressed confidence in these advocates to “deliver on the stated objectives of this strategy by 2030. This is to achieve:1. 90% HPV vaccination coverage. 2. 70% screening coverage. 3. 90% access to treatment for cervical pre-cancer and cancer.
According to FLAC,” In Nigeria, cervical cancer is the 3rd most common form of cancer and 2nd most common among women.”
“It accounted for 9.7% of all malignancies in 2020, recording an estimated 12,075 new cases and 7,968 deaths annually.
“These numbers tell the unfortunate reality of cervical cancer in Nigeria and most African countries, cancer that is preventable, treatable and can be eliminated.
“As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, the commitment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to cancer care assures us that equitable access to quality services is achievable by 2030,” it said.
The statement continued: “Albeit, we had hoped that at the time of this commemoration, HPV vaccines would be available on the nation’s routine immunization schedule.
“Global supply chain challenges and inequalities of access have deferred this critical milestone in our elimination roadmap.
“Nonetheless, we are glad to see that the federal government is delivering on interventions within its control like the Cancer Health Fund which has now increased access to diagnostic and treatment services across the country through 6 tertiary cancer care centres evenly distributed across geopolitical zones.”
The group revealed that this project will begin or start with a series of town hall meetings.
The series would inform girls on:
i. Cervical cancer prevention.
ii. Screening and awareness through our community outreach programme.
It continued, “These town hall events will be held in our individual states on the 17th of November 2021.
“Our continued partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) is delivering routine cervical cancer screening and treatment of precancerous lesions through public health facilities to 10,000 women following a scale-up of the CHAI led program to include Kebbi and Niger states.
“This intervention approach is building the capacity of our health systems to sustain these services. We are grateful to the two-state governments, as well as both organizations.
“It is our prayer that we continue on this journey in the coming year to reach more women across Nigeria.
“The Global Cancer Observatory: GLOBOCAN 2020 Nigeria Population and Cancer Fact Sheets; 2020.
“We call on global and national actors critical to delivering cervical cancer elimination to borrow from the positives of the COVID-19 pandemic response.
“When words translate into urgent actions, we have favourable outcomes.
”Accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer requires greater political will and global cooperation that will prioritize improved access to HPV vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.
“FLAC will continue to pay close attention to the implementation of the global strategy, offering our support to bring about the desired outcomes in Nigeria.”
Note: The First Ladies Against Cancer, FLAC, is a group formed by current and past first ladies in Nigerian states. Their mission:
· To address the gaps in cancer care.
· Increase cancer awareness.
· Ease access to screening and treatment services.
· Advocating for the implementation of policies that will deliver equitable care across Nigeria.