The federal government, though the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) on Monday integrated the rotavirus vaccine into the National routine immunization schedule to tackle the burden of under-five deaths across the country.
Rotavirus is one of the most deadly diarrhoea disease-causing agents, especially in children below five years of age in Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It is responsible for over 40 percent of diarrhoea in children, and is the most frequent cause of severe diarrhoea, accounting for about 215,000 of the global 525,000 under-5 mortality attributed to diarrheal diseases each year.
According to the NPHCDA, Nigeria has the second highest number of deaths from rotavirus, accounting for 14 percent of all childhood rotavirus deaths worldwide. Annually, approximately 50,000 children under the age of five die before their fifth birthday as a result of rotavirus infection, the agency said.
Feisal Shuaib, executive director/CEO, NPHCDA, speaking at the official launch of the vaccine in Abuja, informed that the rotavirus vaccine introduction has the potential to avert over 110,000 deaths, and will have significant economic impact.
“Introduction of Rotavirus vaccine is a big investment due to its substantial economic impact and number of lives that the country is going to save from the introduction. It is projected that while reducing the associated morbidity and mortality from the rotavirus infections, the rotavirus vaccine introduction has the potential to avert over 110,000 deaths over a 10-year period,” he said.
The ED explained that the vaccine will ne given orally and will be administered concurrently with the existing Routine Immunization (RI) vaccines at 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks respectively. He added that vaccine will be integrated with other diarrheal preventive strategies, such as: Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life; Vitamin A supplementation.
Other are: Hand washing, sanitation, and other key household practices; Case management including the use of zinc- ORS to prevent dehydration, continued feeding, and treatment services for diarrhoea and other childhood diseases.
“I urge our parents and caregivers to take their eligible children to the nearest primary health care centre for this important vaccine and other routine vaccines that are in the system until their children are fully vaccinated. Rotavirus vaccine is free, safe and effective at preventing diarrheal disease caused by the Rotavirus,” he urged.
Speaking at the launch, the WHO Country Representative, Walter Mulombo said the introduction of the rotavirus Vaccine provides the opportunity to reduce the number of children dying every day from diarrhoea disease caused by rotavirus, while noting that Nigeria is one of the 4 countries that harbour approximately half the global burden.
According to him, the public health impact of rotavirus vaccine introduction has been demonstrated in several countries with as much as 50 percent deaths from diarrhoeal diseases averted in some. He urged that that the introduction should be part of a comprehensive strategy to control diarrhoeal diseases with the scaling up of both preventive and treatment packages
“Nigeria, being one of the four countries that harbour approximately half the global burden stands to have enormous gains from the economic impact of this introduction. Immunization remains the most cost-effective public health intervention. Unfortunately, the benefits of immunization are unevenly shared. Nigeria should continue to implement these strategies to address gaps in immunization through the life course and prevent deaths,” the country represtative said.
“If we stop vaccination, deadly diseases will return, and when people are not vaccinated, infectious diseases that have become uncommon can quickly return. Indeed, immunization is the right of every Nigerian child, and the Government of Nigeria has sustained this partnership,” he added.
He assured of the WHO’s continued commitment to provide technical support to the introduction of the rotavirus Vaccine into the Nigeria’s routine kmmunization schedule and indeed other health interventions.
The launch of the vaccine coincides with the flag-off of the African Vaccination Week which is a weeklong affair that improves access to basic primary health care services, routine immunization, COVID-19 vaccination, deworming, Vitamin A supplementation, medical outreach services to the teaming rural populations.