•As FG, Gavi commence exercise in Nasarawa state
By Joseph Erunke
Maryam Audu, like some other members of the Ado Community in Karu Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, had come out to receive the human papillomavirus, HPV, vaccination, after the formal launch of the vaccine by the federal government on October 24, 2023.
But unlike her peers and schoolmates who were happy to receive the jab, 13-year-old Miss Audu seemed utterly bewildered.
Although she stood in a queue with some schoolmates waiting patiently to be vaccinated, her countenance appeared worrisome, prompting Vanguard to inquire if there was any problem with her.
It was at this point that the JSS 3 student spoke out.
“I am worried standing here because I don’t know my fate when I get home because before coming here, my father had warned his daughters, including me, not to participate in this exercise.
“My father said he heard that this vaccine that is being given can cause infertility to a vaccinated person in future,” Maryam said.
“So if your father said that, why then are you here to get vaccinated, is it that you don’t believe your father? Why are you here to take it as his daughter?” Vanguard asked.
She responded” Actually I came to school without the intention of being vaccinated but when I saw every eligible girl in my class and school in the queue to receive the vaccine, I decided to join.
“My father is not a doctor and I believe he does not have more knowledge of this disease than all these people (federal government and Gavi team) who are here to carry out this vaccination exercise.
”This is why I decided to ignore what he said at home and join others in receiving the vaccine.”
Maryam Audu’s story shows that many eligible girls wrongly informed by non-medical experts did not show up for vaccination. However, others who were eligible thronged the Bakin-Ado Secondary School when a team from Gavi stormed the area to carry out the HPV vaccination exercise.
Speaking at the event, the Esu Karu and the Chairman of the Karu Local Government Traditional Council in Nasarawa State, Luka Panya Baba, said the community did not doubt the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.
He said extensive communication was carried out by the traditional and religious leaders in the area about the vaccine and its benefits.
He said: “What we are witnessing today will help our girls now and in the future. We appreciate Gavi. The Northern traditional leaders will ensure that we mobilise our young girls to take the vaccine because the benefit is for all of us. We do not doubt the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Several countries have since introduced the vaccine.
“There are many countries in Africa that have introduced the vaccine into their routine immunization. We hope in the future, countries will make reference to Nigeria about the success of the HPV vaccine.”
Head of the HPV Programme, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Emily Kobayashi, was elated at the turnout of eligible persons at the Bakin-Ado Primary and Secondary School even as she expressed satisfaction with the support shown by parents, traditional and religious leaders who came out to witness the exercise
A parent who introduced herself as Mrs Ene Faustina came with her children to the vaccination site for the exercise. She explained that she came to get her children vaccinated because of the importance of the HPV vaccination.
“I have lost someone to breast cancer and this is a great privilege for me. So, I had to bring my children for the vaccination,”, she explained.
Like Mrs Faustina, many parents whose schools were not assigned to the vaccination exercise brought their eligible female wards to the area for vaccination.
The HPV vaccination received similar attention from eligible female parents at the Junior Secondary School, Asokoro, Abuja, when the GAVI-led team visited.
The School Principal, Izzi Jaafaru Madaki, speaking to reporters who accompanied the team, explained that the school management engaged the parents on the need to allow their wards to receive the vaccine to protect them against cervical cancer.
She said about 100 schoolgirls got approval from their parents to receive the HPV vaccine
“We have informed them about the importance of the vaccine, and we asked them to get approval before the vaccine, and most of them got approval to receive the vaccine today. We got the approval of the parent; the vaccine is not compulsory, but it is very important.
The vaccine is given to our children to prevent cervical cancer, which is common in the country. We need to take action to prevent the disease,” she said.
HPV vaccines prevent infection by certain types of HPV, a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause a range of conditions in men and women, such as cervical cancer.
The vaccination targets over seven million girls between the ages of nine to 14. It is the largest single round of HPV vaccination in the African region.
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