Nigeria not lowering guards against polio, vaccinates over 23 million children in high risk states
Abuja, 18 December, 2020 - To buoy up the immunity of eligible children, the Federal Government of Nigeria supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners vaccinated over 23 million children in October as part of the Sub-National Immunization Plus Days (SNIPDs) campaign.
The intervention, conducted in respective states from October 31 to November 24, reached 23,041,255 eligible children (0 -59 months) in eleven states namely Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kwara, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara with the Oral Poliovirus vaccines (OPV).
The mass vaccination campaign which was the first since the outbreak of COVID-19, followed a protocol for safe implementation in the COVID-19 context, whereby personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced infection prevention control measures have been assured by a collaborative initiative and agile support of the State Ministries of Health, NPHCDA and WHO field offices.
Mrs Maryam Haruna, a mother of an infant in Layin Kuka of Yindiski, Dogo Nini ward of Potiskum, Local Government Area, Yobe State said despite the fear of Covid-19, she was not dissuaded from taking her daughter to the health facility for vaccination.
“I have seen the benefit of immunization as all my children grew up healthy and strong that now I have considered family planning” says Mrs Haruna, whose other children had also benefitted from the previous polio campaigns. Expressing her joy that wild poliovirus has been successfully eradicated from the country through vaccination, she said, “many children now live without the parents having fears that they could suddenly get paralyzed”.
A traditional ruler in the Fika Emirate Council, the Maki Dubun Fika in Potiskum Local Government Area, Alhaji Baba Hardo said the traditional council is channeling all its energy towards the campaign to ensure that polio is gone and it is gone forever. Alhaji Hardo who is also the PHC focal person, Fika Emirate council said “we will continue to support all efforts of the government and health authorities to ensure that we contribute to tackling other health issues that affect our people, such as malaria, adulteration of food items, fake drugs and quacks in our community”
Sustaining polio gains
Although the WHO Africa region was certified wild polio-free in August 2020 by the Africa Regional Commission for Certification of Polio Eradication (ARCC), the Nigerian government, WHO and partners have continued to prioritize immunization by implementing various campaigns across the country with a bid of sustaining polio immunity and reducing deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.
In Yobe State, for example, four days’ the subnational polio immunization campaign to sustain population immunity post-polio certification was conducted with a total of 1,101,936 children under five vaccinated with bi-valent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV).
The Commissioner for Health Dr Muhammad Lawan Gana said during the planning of the campaign that “while celebrating the certification of polio eradication in the Africa region, we are still mindful of the challenges of strengthening the health system, especially at the primary care level.”
Dr Gana said the state has not relented in its effort to eradicate all forms of polio as active surveillance on acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) is conducted by the state epidemiologists. There is a need to sustain immunity against polio through the strengthening of global polio eradication strategies of a robust routine immunization system, polio SIAs and mops ups and certification level AFP surveillance indicators.
The state is gradually recovering from the post insurgency attack and more recent, the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic which resulted in a significant number of children unprotected against vaccine-preventable diseases and declining coverage of other essential PHC services. We will strategize to bridge access gaps in underserved communities, hard to reach areas displaced populations to strengthen PHC services”.
Continuous vaccination campaigns
The WHO Country Representative (WR), Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, buttressing the importance of immunization and the supplementary campaigns, says high population immunity through vaccination is necessary to sustain gains of polio eradication and prevent future outbreaks.
“Booster doses given through campaigns reach more children and offer protection to a wider age group to close immunity gaps. Also, all children should receive at least four (4) doses of routine OPV before the age of one”, he added.
Dr Samuel Bawa; Email: bawas [at] who.int; Tel: +234 810 221 0195