The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate, said his four daughters have been vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.
Prof Pate said this while debunking misconceptions about the HPV vaccine on Wednesday in Abuja while fielding questions from newsmen after a visit to the Kuchingoro Primary Health Care Centre in the company of the Director of Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation, Prof Senait Fisseha.
HPV is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract, mainly transmitted through sexual contact, and most people become infected with HPV shortly after the onset of sexual activity.
HPV vaccines are vaccines that prevent infection by certain types of human papillomavirus. The HPV vaccines have the potential to prevent more than 90 per cent of HPV-attributable cancers.
According to Pate, those who choose not to receive the vaccine are making a mistake.
The Federal Government, on Tuesday, introduced the Human Papillomavirus vaccine into the routine immunisation system to prevent cervical cancer among girls aged nine to 14 years.
The vaccination targets over seven million girls, which is the largest number in a single round of HPV vaccination in the African region.
Pate said that the vaccine was safe for girls as it would serve as lifelong prevention against the disease.
“All my four daughters were vaccinated against HPV. I believe no father or mother that is in his or her right senses and fully understands the benefit of vaccines to prevent diseases will allow their children to not be vaccinated, especially if the vaccines are free.
“The only reason is if someone is either not adequately informed, or misguided by actors who do not really know what they are talking about.
“Our focus is to make this voluntary, there are not enough of these vaccines, those who choose not to receive it, they are making a mistake for their children, because they are exposing them to the risk of having those diseases.”
Pate, however, said that receiving the vaccine was not by as the government was only doing its duty to make it available to the people to get vaccinated.
The minister said, “We saw all community leaders have played an incredible role in our efforts to deal with polio in this country.
“Now Polio is history and we have other vaccine preventable diseases, including for cancer, we believe that our traditional leaders will continue to play the role to educate our people.
“Check diphtheria, a very simple disease that has already afflicted thousands of children in this country.
“Ninety eight per cent of those who have had the disease in Nigeria were not vaccinated, so it tells you that if they had been vaccinated, they would not have it.”
He said that parents should understand that the government wants to deliver the most basic services to every Nigerian from wherever they are and that immunisation is one of them.
The Mandate Secretary, Health Services and Environment Secretariat, Federal Capital Territory Administration, Dr Adedolapo Fasawe, noted that the major tool in ensuring that the vaccine reaches everywhere is through health promotion and advocacy.
“It has been a success so far, for the Minister to say he has vaccinated his four daughters, no proper parents would come out and say don’t do it when I have done it.
“So we are also using top government officials to say we have done it, we are professionals, please do it, it is safe. It does not end here, it does not end today. It is continuous in every primary health care centre.
“I am using this opportunity again to say latch on to the FCT Health Insurance Scheme, whereby you pay a certain amount and you access qualitative health care, which is made available in and off-season.”