Despite the laudable efforts being made to combat cervical cancer in Nigeria through the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination program, a noticeable awareness gap persists in certain areas. This was glaringly evident in Niger State's Central Primary School Gauraka, where a senior teacher,
Nana Usman Abdullahi, expressed total oblivion about the program. Conversely, the situation in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) presents a stark contrast, indicating that the level of awareness and involvement vary greatly across the country.
At the Junior Secondary School Wuse Zone 6, Abuja, the principal reported a high level of awareness and active participation in the vaccination campaign since its inception in September. The FCT, in particular, has seen commendable vaccination rates among 9-year-olds, although the target for 10-14-year-olds remains unmet. The situation in Lagos State is perplexing, with surprisingly low vaccination rates despite its successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Resistance and Lack of Prioritization
Rivers State, too, is grappling with low awareness levels, a situation attributed to resistance from religious and traditional leaders and a lack of political will. However, a ray of hope emerges with the upcoming 16-day sensitization program scheduled to start on November 28, 2023. With the state government and media's involvement, the prospects for increased awareness and participation seem promising.
Dr. Joseph Urang and Mrs. Margaret Adaba Soyemi from UNICEF underscored the critical role of the media in educating the public and debunking myths about the HPV vaccine. They urged journalists to leverage their platforms to enlighten Nigerians about the program. In a noteworthy initiative, the WeNaija Campaign is orchestrating a video contest to boost awareness and uptake of HPV vaccines.
Participants, predominantly Nigerian youth, are expected to create and disseminate a 30-120 second video on social media, thereby sensitizing the public about HPV and the vaccine's availability. The contest, offering up to ₦5 million in prizes, seeks to engage the younger population in promoting HPV vaccination, with the submission deadline slated for November 30, 2023.