Skin Bleaching hpv misinformation
The rumours and misconceptions that are being spread about the HPV vaccine are false

REPORTER’s DIARY: Reminiscing My Encounter with HPV Vaccine in the Era of Misinformation By Aishat M. Abisola 

As a health journalist, I have a responsibility to educate the masses on health matters and debunk misinformation that can damage the well-being of my readers.

Factual information is key as misinformation runs riot in recent times. It is disheartening to both hear and see the blatant lies being spread about vaccines, particularly the HPV Vaccine, by people who have massive followership in both conventional and social media.

This is an era of alternative facts, disinformation and misinformation where even supposedly educated adults listen to their religious leaders instead of their doctors on issues concerning their health; an era that peaked during COVID-19 when an American president, a famous tennis player and even a prominent Nigerian pastor took advantage of their large following to feed people with terrible lies about the safety of vaccines, 5G network and all that.

If you are a constant radio listener, then you have probably heard of Brekete Family, a show that is quite popular among the poorest of the poor in Abuja and its environs and takes advantage of the desperation and frustration in people to feed them with just anything.

In one of the recent episodes, Ahmad Isah aka “Ordinary President,” who owns the show warned his listeners against taking the HPV vaccine. He declared with magisterial finality that the vaccine will cause irreparable damage to their health, and render our girls infertile as it is targeted at reducing the population of Nigeria and other parts of Africa. This is one of the many fantastic lies that can ruin the reputation of the HPV vaccine and discourage people from taking it thereby getting exposed to cervical cancer.

Some of these overrated characters on TV and Radio who have access to millions of followers in the era of zero gatekeeping need to watch it or someone needs to watch them. The level of ignorance some of them vomit is even confounding. Imagine him telling people not to take the HPV vaccine since neither the US, UK nor China has found the cure to cancer yet, that the whole thing is a scam meant to harm our girls and render them infertile. Who told him the vaccine is a cure? Even a primary school pupil knows that the vaccine is a preventive measure and not a cure.

My HPV Vaccine Story

His rants made me remember, with nostalgia, when I took my HPV vaccine a few years ago while studying in Malaysia. I would therefore like to share with you my own experience with the vaccine and disprove the myths and lies plaguing it.

When I was in the University, a health organisation came to give the students a lecture on the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the benefits of the vaccine.

One of the members of this organisation was my lecturer, and weeks before, she had given us an assignment to make a campaign on a significant topic in the health sector one of which was HPV.

After the lecture, I went to my hostel and called my sister to tell her about the lecture and the campaign, and she was interested in it as well. We brought it up to a few of our relatives, and it was decided that my sister, I, and a few of my cousins would go to a clinic that weekend to get the 3-dose HPV vaccine.

When we went to the clinic, we stated why we were there and were led to a room where we would be given the vaccine. Two nurses came in to explain the purpose of the vaccine. A doctor also repeated a similar orientation class with us.

A nurse came in afterwards to administer the vaccine (Gardasil) and she explained the side effects and symptoms of the vaccine beforehand. After the first dose, we went home and rested. A month and a week later, my sister and I went in for the second dose of the vaccine but this time, the side effects were less noticeable. We were given the 3rd vaccine dose two months after the second dose and I experienced no side effects.

The reason why we were given the vaccine at different times was that administering the doses needs to be spaced out between a period of time that is neither too long nor too short to prevent any adverse reactions. The vaccine that my sister and I were given is the same one that is being administered to young girls in Nigeria to protect them against HPV and cervical cancer. The same side effects that I experienced (soreness, lethargy, nausea) are the same that they will go through and they will feel better in a day’s time.

I received the first dose of the HPV Vaccine in September 2020. I took the next two doses in November 2021 and January 2022. When I was given the first vaccine dose, I was told that there would be a few side effects. As soon as I returned home, I felt tired, sore, and slightly nauseous, but the side effects left the next day. I felt no other side effects with the next two vaccine doses.

Whenever I went to receive the next dose, I was provided with information about the vaccine and given a pamphlet about HPV and why it is best to be vaccinated early. After my last dose, I reflected on the importance of contributing to herd immunity and preventing the transmission of the virus.

It is vital to address the misconceptions surrounding the HPV vaccine, particularly the unfounded concerns about infertility. Numerous studies have debunked such claims, confirming the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. The main target of the HPV vaccine is the virus, and it does not impact fertility.

Education and awareness play key roles in dispelling myths, and ensuring that individuals make informed decisions about their health.

My experience with the HPV vaccine was a positive and empowering journey towards prioritising my health and protecting myself from potential risks.

In this era of fake news and propaganda when even educated people are so naive and they swallow everything their pastors, clerics and favourite political leaders tell them no matter how silly it sounds, those of us who have chosen the path of knowledge and facts have a lot of work to do. We must keep grinding and keep telling the truth no matter how the agents of misinformation try to keep falsehood on the front burner so that it will begin to look like the truth.

Every responsible adult is supposed to know that the issue of vaccines causing infertility and reducing our population is an old, ridiculous lie. We all grew up receiving different types of vaccines and yet the population of this country has been growing in geometric progression. Right now, with over 200 million people, only China, India, Indonesia and the United States have more population than Nigeria. And by 2050, it is projected that we will surpass the US and Indonesia in terms of population.

There has to be a limit to organised falsehood. The authorities need to legally clamp down on dispensers of lies and deceit who take advantage of their online popularity and the desperation of Nigerians to mislead people.

Aishat M. Abisola is a member of the Society for Health Communication
Wuye District, Abuja
[email protected]