• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Addressing immunisation challenge, key in achieving MDG Goals 4 & 6

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 Vaccines are some of the best and most cost effective public health interventions known to man. Sadly, in Nigeria, many children who need life-saving vaccines like Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), Pneumococcal Vaccine (PCV), etc, never get them. Annually, Nigeria loses more than 1 million children under the age of 5 years.

While these preventable deaths impose a huge social and economic cost on families, communities and the nation, vaccinating children have been observed not only to protect their health but also bring economic benefits.

As all member states of WHO in the African Region celebrate the third African Vaccination Week (AVW), an initiative led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from 22 to 28 April 2013, this year’s edition is aimed at raising awareness on immunisation, increase vaccination coverage, reach under-served and remote communities, reinforcing long term benefits of immunisation and other child survival interventions.

In a statement made available to BusinessDay by WHO Regional Office for Africa, Lius Sambo, WHO regional director for Africa, said that with the institutionalisation of AVW and the momentum gradually increasing, achievements realised during the last two editions seem to portend greater success for the future.

With this year’s theme tagged ‘Save lives, prevent disabilities, vaccinate,’ participating countries are to sensitise campaigns using traditional, modern and social media, engage religious leaders, conduct community dialogues through panel discussions, sensitise supervisors and undertake supportive supervisory visits to vaccination sites in a bid to showcase the power of vaccination in protecting public health.

Records available at WHO show that during the celebration of the week in the last two years, access to vaccines improved especially in hard-to-reach communities with more than 150 million people vaccinated with oral polio vaccine in 13 countries.

According to Sambo, “This burgeoning partnership between WHO, governments, partners, and other stakeholders is helping countries to sustain political commitment to vaccination and lay a solid foundation for a participatory culture of prevention and health promotion in member states. The growing profile of the AVW is another opportunity for us to underscore the proven life-saving power of vaccines, and encourage vaccination of children, adolescents and adults against deadly diseases.”

While continued community resistance to acceptance of Oral Polio Vaccine is impacting progress, caregiver refusals/non-compliance to immunise children still make up a significant proportion of the total number of children missed during campaigns.

Nigeria is one of the most entrenched reservoirs of wild poliovirus (WPV) in the world and the only country with ongoing transmission of all three serotypes: wild poliovirus type 1, wild poliovirus type 3, and circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.

With one new WPV case was reported in the past week (WPV1 from Gombe), bringing the total number of WPV cases for 2013 to eleven, this latest WPV case is the most recent in the country, and had onset of paralysis on 19 March 2013, according to Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) report.

As next Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) are billed for May 2013, recommendations from the recent Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation (ERC) are being incorporated as part of preparatory activities which include identifying those high-risk Local Government Areas (LGAs) where progress has stagnated and focusing resources on those areas to fill remaining operational gaps, the report added.

Chizoba Wonodi, leader, Nigeria Programmes at the John Hopkins International Vaccine Access Centre, noted that both supply and demand barriers are important impediments to routine immunisation performance.

In her paper titled ‘Overcoming Barriers to Routine Immunisation in Nigeria’ Wonodi stated that in many places, supply is not robust enough to meet existing demand; therefore focusing on addressing supply constraints was a pragmatic first step. 

 

ALEXANDER CHIEJINA