Consultant paediatrician cautions against misinformation on HPV vaccine

June 3, 2024

A Consultant Paediatrician at the School of Medicine, University of Benin, Edo State, Professor Ayebo Sadoh, has addressed several misconceptions about the Human Papillomavirus vaccine and cautioned the public against misinformation.

The Professor of Paediatrics, debunked numerous false claims in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, in Abuja on Sunday.

“The vaccines are important and safe. They are safe for use,” she insisted.

NAN reports that the World Health Organisation describes HPV as a common sexually transmitted infection, which can affect the skin, genital area and throat.

WHO also noted that almost all sexually active people will be infected at some point in their lives, usually without symptoms, adding that in most cases, the immune system clears HPV from the body.

“Persistent infection with high-risk HPV can cause abnormal cells to develop, which go on to become cancer.

“It also said that Prophylactic vaccination against HPV and screening and treatment of pre-cancer lessons are effective strategies to prevent cervical cancer and are very cost-effective.

“Cervical cancer can be cured if diagnosed at an early stage and treated promptly, it added.

The world health body said that countries around the world are working to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer in the coming decades, with an agreed set of three targets to be met by 2030

“Contrary to the claims being circulated, there are over 100 strains of HPV, not just 11. The vaccine targets four main strains – 6, 11, 16, and 18 – these include the strains most commonly associated with cervical cancer.

“Specifically, strains 16 and 18 are responsible for approximately 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases.

“The bivalent vaccine, containing strains 16 and 18, also offers cross-protection against strains 31, 33, and 45, potentially preventing up to 80 per cent of cervical cancer cases,” she said.

Addressing concerns about the vaccine’s safety, the don stated that the notion of the vaccine being harmful to everyone who took it was “baseless”.

“If this were true, millions of people worldwide, who have received the vaccine, would be ill or dead.

“Vaccines, including the HPV vaccine, undergo rigorous testing and evaluation before being approved for use,” she added.

The consultant paediatrician also refuted the claim that the HPV vaccine was not beneficial.

She highlighted that no drug, especially vaccines administered to healthy individuals, would be licensed without proven efficacy.

Regarding reports of court cases in the U.S., she pointed out that merely going to court does not establish causality.

“While some studies have suggested associations between the vaccine and certain side effects, these have not been corroborated by long-term studies involving large cohorts of vaccinated individuals,” she explained.

The paediatrician further explained that the AstraZeneca vaccine was not withdrawn due to side effects, but because better alternatives became available.

She added that many Nigerians, who received the AstraZeneca vaccine, did so without adverse effects.

On the issue of vaccines being a business, she acknowledged that but highlighted the life-saving benefits of vaccines, which save approximately four million lives annually.

“Contrary to claims that the HPV vaccination is mandated, I want to assure everyone that it is not,” she clarified.

Sadoh also countered allegations that the government had not invested in PAP smear tests, pointing out that women were currently being offered free cervical cancer screenings at health centres as part of a broader campaign.

She condemned a viral video spreading false claims, describing it as “an attempt at national sabotage motivated by antivax sentiments”.

She questioned the timing and intentions of those spreading fear and misinformation, urging the public to trust the consultative processes that preceded the vaccine’s introduction.

NAN recalls that the Federal Government has successfully rolled out the first phase of the HPV vaccine in Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Jigawa and Kano.

Also covered were Kebbi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo and Taraba States, as well as the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Available statistics reveal that over five million girls have been reached.

The second phase of the HPV vaccination campaign was launched in 21 states across Nigeria on May 27th, 2024.

The implementation covers Anambra, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo and Kaduna.

Other states being covered include Katsina, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.


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