By Joseph Erunke
The federal government has said it would introduce Human Papilloma Virus, HPV, on 25 September 2013, to prevent cervical cancer when given to girls between the ages of nine and 15 years. The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, who disclosed this recently, at the Bi-Annual Religious Leaders Review Meeting convened by the agency, in Abuja, described HPV as one of the deadliest diseases that affect women and girls. To this end, he solicited the support of traditional and religious leaders across the country to join hands with the medical community in championing the cause of the Human Papilloma Virus, HPV vaccination.
“Revered Leaders, I want to use this auspicious occasion to bring to your attention the progress we are making towards preventing one of the deadliest diseases that affects our mothers, sisters and daughters: cervical cancer. This cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). On the 25th of September this year (2023), we will be introducing a vaccine, the HPV vaccine that prevents cervical cancer when given to our daughters between the ages 9 and 15 years. In your roles as spiritual guides, you hold the power to influence hearts and minds. Your words carry weight and inspire action. Today, I urge you to join hands with the medical community in championing the cause of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccination”, he said.
According to the NPHCDA boss, by encouraging HPV vaccination within their congregations, the traditional and religious leaders become advocates of life and guardians of health. “You help dispel myths and fears, fostering a culture of prevention and care. This step aligns with the teachings of compassion, protection and stewardship that your faiths emphasize. Consider the impact of our collective endorsement of HPV vaccination. We safeguard our youth’s future, allowing them to pursue dreams unburdened by health concerns. We uphold our duty to care for the vulnerable, ensuring equitable access to lifesaving interventions”, he said. Explaining that HPV vaccination is more than a medical breakthrough, Dr Shuaib said: “It is a testament to our unity in safeguarding the sanctity of life. As religious leaders, you possess the unique ability to inspire trust and bridge gaps in understanding. By spreading accurate information and advocating for vaccination, you empower individuals and families to make informed choices. Imagine the strength of our message when our faith communities unite behind this cause. By championing HPV vaccination, we send a powerful signal that our values extend beyond the spiritual realm – they encompass every facet of human existence, including health and well-being,” he said.
While appreciating the roles of His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto, and His Eminence, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Archbishop Daniel Okoh in promoting federal government’s vaccination efforts across the country, Dr Shuaib noted that ”they have consistently rallied religious leaders across the country, fostering support for primary healthcare programmes and interventions.”
“To all you religious leaders present here today, your esteemed presence signifies your unwavering dedication to the well-being of our people, your adherence to the noble principles guiding your faith, and a collective commitment to advancing our nation’s health and prosperity. In the tapestry of our society, you are the moral compass that guides countless lives. Your words inspire, your actions uplift, and your guidance brings solace to those in need. Today, I implore you to join hands with us on a journey that holds profound significance for our nation’s future – the journey towards bolstering primary healthcare and holistic well-being.
“Our sacred duty as stewards of health and progress compels us to recognize that health is not just a medical issue; it is a profoundly spiritual one. The health of our people reflects the strength of our communities, the depth of our compassion, and the resilience of our nation. The National Primary Healthcare Development Agency is driven by a resolute vision: health for all, equitably accessible and sustainably maintained. We believe that a strong foundation of primary healthcare is the cornerstone of a prosperous society. In our endeavor to reach every corner of our nation, we acknowledge the pivotal role that you, esteemed religious leaders, play in this noble pursuit. You possess the power to disseminate crucial information that can influence behavior, dispel myths, and encourage preventive practices. Your guidance can inspire individuals and families to seek timely medical attention, to embrace healthy lifestyles, and to embrace the concept that good health is a divine gift to be cherished.”
While insisting that by encouraging HPV vaccination within your congregations, the religious and royal fathers become advocates and guardians of health, Dr Shuaib said the such roles place them the opportunity of helping to dispel myths and fears, fostering a culture of prevention and care.
This step aligns with the teachings of compassion, protection and stewardship that your faiths emphasize, he said.
“Consider the impact of our collective endorsement of HPV vaccination. We safeguard our youth’s future, allowing them to pursue dreams unburdened by health concerns. We uphold our duty to care for the vulnerable, ensuring equitable access to lifesaving interventions. HPV vaccination is more than a medical breakthrough; it is a testament to our unity in safeguarding the sanctity of life. As religious leaders, you possess the unique ability to inspire trust and bridge gaps in understanding. By spreading accurate information and advocating for vaccination, you empower individuals and families to make informed choices.
“Imagine the strength of our message when our faith communities unite behind this cause. By championing HPV vaccination, we send a powerful signal that our values extend beyond the spiritual realm – they encompass every facet of human existence, including health and well-being. As we navigate the complexities of modern healthcare, we find ourselves standing at the crossroad between tradition and innovation. The convergence of faith and science holds immense promise. We must recognize the healing power of modern medicine without forgetting the healing touch of compassion that you, our religious leaders, so beautifully embody.
“Today, I humbly request your continued partnership. Let us weave a tapestry of health awareness through the threads of faith. Let us work together to ensure that every child receives their vaccinations, every family accesses essential healthcare services, and every person lives with the knowledge that their spiritual and physical well-being are intertwined.
“I therefore encourage us to share insights, experiences and innovative ideas. Let us identify effective strategies that align with your teachings and values, fostering a culture of preventive health care within the faith communities and the nation at large. Together, we can harness the power of faith to drive positive health-seeking behaviours and contribute to the well-being of our nation.
“In the cause of this meeting, we look forward to your sharing your experiences with us, especially in the provision of health services in your faith-based health centres and hospitals. This will enable us to properly document, acknowledge and give visibility to your contributions to our modest achievements in the health sector. It will provide the opportunity for your health organizations and teams to receive updates and align with current national and global standard operating procedures. Together, we can bridge gaps, erase disparities, create a healthier, stronger and more harmonious nation. Your voices can echo the message of hope, resilience and unity across every congregation and every community.”