BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
A youth corps member, Miss Okeke Oluchukwu, has led a vaccination campaign against cervical cancer for young girls in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Oluchukwu, through her foundation, Okeke Gloria Oluchukwu Initiative, with support from Sigma Pensions and Medicaid, on Thursday, provided free vaccination for 11 school children at the Piwoyi Primary Health Care Centre, along Airport Road, in the FCT.
The cost of the vaccination is N13, 000 per dose in the first of at least two laps of vaccination against the disease.
The 26 years old graduate of Accounting from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state who is currently serving at the headquarters of National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Abuja, said that her passion for public health and girl child education and development were the motivation for the gesture.
Addressing scores of participants at the venue, Oluchukwu called on the federal government to integrate vaccination against cervical cancer into national immunisation campaign and increase access to screening for cancers in the country.
“The girls that are supposed to be given vaccine are not given vaccine because it has not been included in the national immunisation routine, making it unavailable to the girls and the youth. The essence of this advocacy is to call on the federal government, the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency to include the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine into the national immunization routine to make it available and accessible for the girls at the grassroots.
“The vaccine is very expensive. I am vaccinating 11 girls today, sponsored by Sigma Pensions. The cost of that is N13,000 per vaccine, making it N26,000 for the two doses the girls are receiving, from age of nine to 14, that is, girls who are not sexually active. They are the ones receiving these vaccines today.
“How many people are able to afford this? None of them can. That is why I am appealing to the government to include this in the national routine immunization. I am also encouraging our mothers to go for cancer screening. It will help in early detection of cervical cancer. That is going to bring up the treatment and protect them from having the condition,” she said.
In his remarks, the minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, gave assurance at the event that government would continue to do its best to guarantee the wellbeing of people in the country, especially in protecting women and girls against cervical cancer.
Represented by Assistant Director, Cancer Control Programme, Department of Hospital Services in the ministry, Dr Chinwendu Onuselogu, the minister said government was working with other stakeholders to procure human papilloma vaccine “because the most important things are the grassroots children. If we are able to go to the grassroots through immunization, I think it will go a long way to prevent our young girls from getting infected with cervical cancer.
“So, through immunisation with human papillomavirus vaccine, cancer could be prevented to barest minimal level. Secondly, there is another programme we are also doing with other stakeholders which is for secondary prevention; that is screen and treat.”
Speaking on the cost of procuring the vaccine, the minister said: “Our ministry is working with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, because that is the agency in charge of procuring vaccine. We are working and we hope by next year, the vaccine will get to our country.”
He also assured that whenever the vaccine arrives the country, it would be incorporated into national immunization routine programme of the government.
Representative of MedicAid at the event, Mardiya Sabiu Bako, noted that human papillomavirus is responsible for more than 90 percent of cases of cervical cancer and that cervical cancer would be much prevented with the vaccine for human papillomavirus.
She also said her organisation was supporting vaccination of girls against the condition in the country, even as she backed the call on government to include vaccination against the disease in the national immunisation routine.