Pardon me. For days I had a problem on the best way to start this article on the use of gardasil in Nigeria. I didn’t know where to start from or concentrate my research on. I was confused, then I decided to talk to a friend about my dilemma: should I write only on gardasil or write generally on the available HPV vaccines in Nigeria? She advised me to put it to a vote in my place of work. I did, vote results came out to favour an article on gardasil in Nigeria and its cost. Another problem arose; what do Nigerians want to know about gardasil apart from its cost? I decided to ask Nigerians myself so I marched to the streets to interview them. I was the only one so I could only interview 100 women in 3 days and my results are published below:
1) 15 women have no knowledge about gardasil and its use in Nigeria
2) 60 of the women just want to know the cost of gardasil in Nigeria(trust Nigerians)
3) 7 of women asked if males in Nigeria can take gardasil
4) 11 asked why gardasil is preferable to other HPV vaccines in Nigeria
5) The remaining 7 asked the age at which Nigerians can take the vaccine and wanted me to make a general statement on cervical cancer and its prevention in Nigeria.
With these interviews it became clear to me that Nigerians are interested in knowing about prevention of cervical cancer particularly the cost of gardasil in Nigeria.
Now we can talk about gardasil under the following headers:
1.What is gardasil?
It is a vaccine that protects against cervical cancer and other forms of cancers caused by the human papilloma virus in women like throat cancer, vulva cancer, vaginal cancer, and anal cancer. Two types of gardasil vaccines are available in Nigeria right now. The quadrivalent gardasil which protects against 4 types of HPV and gardasil 9 which protects against 9 serotypes of hpv as the name implies. I will tell you more about these vaccines as we go further.
2.Are there other HPV vaccines in Nigeria?
Yes. Cervarix is also a vaccine that protect against cervical cancer in Nigerian women. Unlike gardasil, cervarix protects against only two serotypes of HPV (a bivalent vaccine) and it is only taken by women.
3.Why do women prefer gardasil to other HPV vaccines in Nigeria
The reason is simple and understandable. Gardasil provides a wide range of protection against human papilloma virus serotypes. The quadrivalent (quadri means 4) gardasil protects against 4 types of HPV- 6, 11, 16 and 18. An improvement in the vaccine called gardasil 9 has seen its effectiveness extended against serotypes- 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58. Unlike cervarix that protects only against serotypes 16 and 18, gardasil vaccine protects most nigerian women against most causes of cervical cancer.
4.Is the vaccine only for females?
No, gardasil is for both males and females. Vaccinating Nigeria males will help prevent or reduce the transmission of HPV to females.
5.How much? What is the cost of gardasil in Nigeria?
During a lecture on cervical cancer and its prevention in Nigeria, a professor asked the 30 ladies in my class to indicate by raising their hands if they have taken either gardasil or cervarix vaccines. Just a lady raised her hand; the remaining 29 complained of the cost of the hpv vaccines as their reason for defaulting. Then the lecturer looking displeased and disappointed lambasted them saying: ” you buy phones worth N100,000 but you cannot save yourself of avoidable agony and death from cervical cancer with just N21,000.”
The price or cost of gardasil in Nigeria is between N15,000- N18,000 for full doses in public hospitals and between N20,000- 25,000 naira for full doses in some private clinics and laboratories. HPV vaccines in Nigeria comes highly subsidized by the federal government of Nigeria. Trust me, it is very much more expensive in the developed countries.Currently, plans are ongoing by the Nigerian government to incorporate the vaccines fully into the national immunization schedule thereby making the vaccines free.
6.How many doses of gardasil will I take?
Gardasil is given in 3 doses in a span of 6months. It is given at first contact, 4th week and at the 6th month in the upper arm.
7.At what age can I be vaccinated with gardasil in Nigeria?
The Federal Ministry of Health recommends that immunization against human papilloma virus be around age 9 -26 years and usually before the start of sexual activity. This is the standard practice all over the world.
8.Can you still benefit from the HPV vaccines if you are greater than 26 and sexually active?
Yes. Recent studies have shown that already sexually active ladies and women between ages 27 to 45 do benefit from some form of gardasil (HPV vaccination).
9.Where can you get vaccinated with gardasil in Nigeria?
You can get the HPV vaccine at federal medical centres, teaching hospitals, some established private hospitals and laboratories in Nigeria.
10.What happens if I do not finish taking the 3 doses?
It is a waste of time if you fail to complete the full doses of gardasil as incomplete doses offers no protection. Also if you skip your doses for a period greater than 6 months, gardasil will offer nil protection against cervical cancer.
11.How long will gardasil protect me against cervical cancer?
Gardasil offers life long protection but still go for routine cervical cancer screening every 3 to 5 years.
12.How safe is gardasil? What are the side effects?
It is a relatively safe vaccine. Thousands of women that have taken gardasil in Nigeria have not complained of any serious side effects other than pain at the injection site, tiredness, and joint pains. These effects are tolerable and should not stop you from getting vaccinated.
13.Can gardasil be used interchangeably with cervarix?
No. According to the Centre for disease control, gardasil and cervarix vaccines cannot be used interchangeably. Make sure you start and finish with gardasil, or start and finish with cervarix.
14.Can pregnant Nigerian women take the HPV vaccine gardasil?
No, though no side effects have been reported with gardasil use in pregnant women, but experts are only trying to play safe. Breastfeeding mothers can however, take gardasil in Nigeria
15.Can HIV infected persons be vaccinated against HPV?
Yes, Nigerian ladies with HIV also need protection against cervical cancer.They should also be vaccinated.
16.Do I still need to go for routine cervical cancer screening after gardasil immunization?
Yes of course. Regular clinic visits for cervical cancer screening (called pap smear) every 3 to 5 years is recommended for all Nigerian women irrespective of HPV vaccination status.
17.cost of cervarix in Nigeria
As I told you earlier, cervarix is also available to Nigerian women but protects only against 2 serotypes of HPV (16 and 18). The cost money of getting cervarix vaccines in Nigeria is between N9,000- N12,000 @ N3,000 to N4,000 per dose or shot. Because it has a narrow range of action against HPV types, it is cheaper and more affordable than gardasil in Nigeria.
18.General statement on cervical cancer in Nigeria
From cancer registry statistics, about 15,000 new cases of cervical cancer is diagnosed annually in Nigerian women. It kills about 90 of our women daily, and 9,659 of our women yearly. The maxim that “prevention is cheaper than cure” holds true for cervical cancer as it is the only form of cancer that it is about 99% preventable.
Why not get vaccinated for “just N21,000” with the available cervarix or gardasil in Nigeria now and save yourself the humongous sum of about N500,000-N1,000,000 for cervical cancer treatment in future? Think about this and make a decision on your health today.