First Ladies Against Cancer (FLAC) will today mark the first anniversary of the global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer through the launch of the Vaccine Access Programme.
FLAC is a coalition of the spouses of current and former state governors of Nigeria working to address gaps in the cancer continuum of care; increasing awareness, facilitating access to screening and treatment services, and advocating for the implementation of policies that will deliver equitable access to quality cancer
In a statement by the organisation, it noted that it has been 365 days since the launch of the Global Strategy to Accelerate the Elimination of Cervical Cancer by the World Health Organization. It commended the renewed commitment of all cervical cancer advocates in Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health, international and indigenous partners to deliver on the stated objectives of this strategy by 2030: to achieve 90% HPV vaccination coverage, 70% screening coverage, and 90% access to treatment for cervical pre-cancer and cancer.
It noted that in Nigeria, cervical cancer is the third most common form of cancer and 2nd most common among women, adding that it accounted for 9.7% of all malignancies in 2020, recording an estimated 12,075 new cases and 7,968 deaths annually. It said these numbers tell the unfortunate reality of cervical cancer in Nigeria and most African countries, a cancer that is largely 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. 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,” it said.
It said that it was 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, which aims to increase awareness, drive demand, and most of all provide access to HPV vaccines in our states. It noted that 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.