By Sola Ogundipe
A MEDIC, Dr Lai Ogunbiyi, has called for urgent commencement of national immunisation of Nigerians against the scourge of liver cancer and cervical cancer in Nigeria. Ogunbiyi, who is the Managing is the Managing Director, Signal Health Nigeria Ltd., said despite the availability of effective preventive vaccines, liver cancer and cervical cancer continue to kill Nigerians.
“Liver cancer is caused by Hepatitis B virus is the number two killer in Nigeria after malaria.”
The Hepatitis B virus is about 100 times more infectious than HIV and is predominantly transmitted via sexual contact. However, because it is present in all bodily fluids and has an inherent high infection rate compared to other viruses, it can also be transmitted casually such as via coughing or kissing, mother to child at birth and by close contact or proximity to an infected individual. Ogunbiyi said 28 Nigerians die of liver cancer everyday, that is, more than one person an hour.
“Liver cancer caused by Hepatitis B virus can be completely and effectively prevented by vaccines. The vaccination regimen usually calls for three vaccinations given at time intervals of 0, 1 month and 6 months. Efficacy of prevention is usually in the 99 percent range. Noting the demography of infection in Lagos State presents a unique challenge, he said the infection rate in surgeons and emergency room madicals technicians exceeds the average infection rate of Lagos state.
“As a resultt of the work these professional do, they present a major source of spreading the virus in Lagos State and will require particular attention with respect ot a state immunisation programme.
Arguing for the national vaccination drive, Ogunbiyi said it is generally recommended that the populace should be vaccinated starting with firstline responders such as the police, solders, firemen, healthcare professionals before progressing to the rest of the population.
Further, Ogunbiyi said cervical cancer is a concern primarily caused by sexual transmission of the Human Papilloma virus (HPV) and unfortunately, Nigeria ranks 1st in deaths from cervical cancer in the 24 countries that constitute North and West Africa and is10th in the world.
“Conservatively, about 30 women die of cervical cancer everyday in Nigeria. Cervical cancer currently affects 23.7 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 – 44 years. It is projected to increase to 62 percent in Nigeria over the next 10-15 years.
“Highly effective vaccines have been developed for the prevention of cervical cancer. A most effective strategy for prevention requires cervical cancer vaccination in routine annual immunisation programmes to ensure extensive coverage of the population over time.