(BBC) Nigeria has begun a mass vaccination campaign against human papillomavirus (HPV) in a bid to drastically reduce cervical cancer rates.

HPV, a common virus usually spread through intimate sexual contact, can in a minority of cases lead to cervical cancer.

In 2021, a major study found the HPV vaccine was cutting cases of cervical cancer by nearly 90%.

Nigeria’s Health Minister Muhammad Pate told the BBC the programme was vital as “at least 12,000 women every year have advanced stages of cervical cancer [in Nigeria]”.

“About 90% of them lose their lives because of that,” he added.

The nationwide campaign began on Tuesday and the health ministry aims to vaccinate 16.6 million girls aged between nine and 14 by the end of 2025.

It has been integrated into Nigeria’s national immunisation schedule. Outreach includes co-operation with schools and leaders from religious and civil society circles.

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