The coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr. Aminu Magashi has hailed the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate for actively engaging with the media on issues around and within the Nigerian health sector.
He made this statement during a one-day workshop in Abuja with the theme “On the Importance of Preventing Cancer and the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine: The Role of the Media”.
Magashi, who had previously called for the revival of bi-monthly media engagements to keep Nigerians informed about health sector developments, spoke to reporters in Abuja during the workshop.
He highlighted the importance of bi-monthly media briefings as a means of fostering accountability and maintaining an open channel of communication with the public. These briefings, initiated by the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with AHBN, provide updates on efforts to combat COVID-19, Lassa fever, routine immunisation coverage, reproductive health initiatives, among other topics.
Magashi underscored the significance of Pate’s commitment to transparency and accountability in Nigerian health matters, emphasising that collaboration with the media is pivotal in achieving these objectives. He commended Pate for assuring the media of collaboration in realising the ministry’s four-point agenda, which includes providing regular updates and comprehensive reports on health issues, programs, and expenditures.
“The minister’s commitment to transparency and accountability in the health sector is commendable. Collaborating with the media is a critical step in achieving these goals,” said Magashi.
During the workshop, discussions centred on the media’s role in disseminating accurate information about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, addressing misconceptions, and encouraging vaccination as a crucial component of cancer prevention. Magashi emphasised the vital role health journalists can play in launching public awareness campaigns on HPV vaccination.
He acknowledged the challenges journalists face in countering vaccine misinformation and scepticism and urged the media to work closely with relevant agencies to make HPV vaccination for girls aged nine to 15 a reality in Nigeria. Magashi highlighted the importance of cervical cancer prevention through vaccination, noting that it is essential for public health.
“Cervical cancer is preventable, and the HPV vaccine is our shield against it. By ensuring that young girls get vaccinated, you are not just protecting them, but also contributing to a world where this cancer is a thing of the past,” Magashi emphasised.
In addition, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib announced the shift in the introduction date of the HPV vaccine in Nigeria, from September 25 to October 24,2023. This vaccine introduction will occur in 16 states: Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Enugu, FCT, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Osun and Taraba.
Cervical cancer, caused primarily by various strains of the HPV, is a significant health issue in Nigeria. The HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 per cent of HPV-attributable cancers. In Nigeria, an estimated 14,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually, with 7,968 women succumbing to the disease. The vaccine introduction aims to reduce the burden of cervical cancer and protect the lives of young girls in Nigeria.