The United States Centre for Disease Control (USCDC) says Nigeria risks an outbreak of vaccine-preventable diseases if urgent action is not taken to close the wide immunisation gap.
The Centre on Wednesday noted that Africa’s most populous nation currently accounts for the highest-burden of unsaturated children globally, with 2.3 million zero-dose children, and warned that outbreaks of polio, measles, and yellow fever are imminent.
Zero-dose children are children who are yet to receive any vaccines on the routine schedule. They are measured by the number of children who have not received the first dose of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine.
Hadley Ikwe, senior public health specialist, immunisation & PHC at the CDC, who issued the warning during a press conference, stated that as of 2022, there were over 19 million zero-dose children worldwide, 58 percent of which live in just ten countries.
“With 2.3 million zero-dose children, Nigeria accounts for the highest burden globally. Only about 57 percent of eligible children in Nigeria were fully vaccinated as of 2021, according to the report”, he informed.
Ikwe noted that Niger and Zamfara states have the highest-burden zero-dose local government areas in Nigeria due to insecurity and difficulty in accessing some communities.
Ikwe explained that the introduction and spread of disease within a community can cause epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, and yellow fever; hence zero-dose children are susceptible to many diseases. He stressed the need for a deepened partnership between government, CDC and other key players in the health sector
Patricia Tanifum, programme director, immunisations, CDC, said the centre was directly supporting the government in select geographies through intensified investments in immunisation between 2023 and 2028 to “target high-burden zero-dose LGAs in 2nd tier LGAs in Niger and Zamfara, particularly in security-compromised areas and hard-to-reach and missed communities.”
He added that the centre would also be using innovative integrated strategies, including better micro-planning with geographic information system maps and building capacity and workforce development.
While stating a commitment to partnering with the government for an effective primary health care centre, she said Nigeria’s vaccination programme has identified 100 priority high-burden local government areas/states to target zero-dose reduction efforts and strengthen primary health care centres through the health sector revitalisation initiative.