The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 6.2 million children in Nigeria did not receive a single dose of life-saving vaccines from 2019 to 2021.
Walter Mulombo, the WHO Country Representative disclosed this on Tuesday at a media briefing to commemorate the 2023 African Vaccination Week.
The Country Representative said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on routine immunisation services has driven up the number of zero-dose and under-immunised children, rising by 16 percent between 2019 and 2021 and pushing the cumulative total (2019–2021) in Africa to around 33 million, which represents nearly half the global estimate.
Mulombo also estimated that 33 million children will need to be vaccinated in Africa between 2023 and 2025 to put the continent back on track to achieve the 2030 global immunization goals that include reducing morbidity and mortality from vaccine-preventable diseases.
He said reaching the children would require renewed and intensified efforts by the government and partners.
Mulombo also urged Nigeria to increase its health budget and commit 80 percent of it to primary health care centres (PHCs) and the remaining to secondary and tertiary health institutions.
According to him, 80 percent of community dwellers rely on primary healthcare centres, adding that it would reduce the huge out-of-pocket expenses they bear.
Speaking further, Mulombo said the plan to introduce the malaria vaccine in routine immunization, and Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) in 2023 and 2024 are commendable as it aligns with establishing a life-course platform for immunization for an optimum dividend from vaccination.
He assured that WHO will support the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in its engagement with 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory to develop tailored strategies to reach zero dose and unimmunized children.
He added that the WHO is supporting Nigeria’s full participation in the Regional Working Group for Catch-up to ensure effective planning and resource mobilization for the 20 countries with a high burden of zero-dose children in the region.