Vaccinate children against polio as soon as possible

Nigeria could lose its wild poliovirus-free status as outbreaks have been seen in 13 states and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPCDA), raised the alarm at the second-quarter review meeting of the Northern Traditional Leaders’ committee on primary healthcare in Abuja on July 5.

He asked them to help mobilise people to respond to outbreak response campaigns, including getting their children vaccinated against polio.

Doctor Muhammad Kashim, who works at the New Government Residential Area (GRA) clinic in Maiduguri, told RNI reporter Hadiza Dawood that the outbreak was not a new variant of polio as had been suggested.

“It is the same form of polio that has recently resurfaced,” he said.

There had been outbreaks of the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) in the Abia, Bayelsa, Borno, Delta, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Rivers, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states and in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

Kashim said people in Borno State should not hesitate to visit clinics and hospitals to get their children inoculated as soon as possible.

The World Health Organisation said routine immunisation and polio prevention activities had been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It said many countries had weak immunisation systems and that the various humanitarian emergencies were made worse by the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

ReliefWeb, a humanitarian information service provided by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said in its weekly situation report of July 5 that the Borno State Ministry of Health and its partners had rolled out a major polio vaccination campaign targeting all eligible children across internally displaced persons’ camps and communities in Monguno Local Government Area.

It said an estimated 191,000 doses of oral poliomyelitis vaccines were released by the health ministry as partners ramped up awareness activities including house-to-house engagements to ensure those targeted for vaccination received it.

Although Nigeria was certified polio-free in August last year, partners had continued to support the government with routine vaccination activities, especially in the conflict-affected northeast region, where access constraints continued to impede critical health services.

The Channel Network Afrique reported Shuaib as saying that the continuous spread of the poliovirus in the affected states posed health implications on the wellbeing of the people and threatened Nigeria’s wild poliovirus-free status.

“All caregivers must continue to vaccinate their children against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, including polio. Religious and community leaders, as champions of wild poliovirus eradication, should continue to mobilise caregivers to vaccinate their children against all vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Peter Hawkins, Nigeria’s representative of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

  • The WHO described polio as a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure, but there are safe and effective vaccines, which given multiple times can protect a child for life. Eradicating polio requires immunising every child until transmission stops and the world is free of all forms of poliovirus.

Last year, the WHO said, the polio eradication programme adjusted to address the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the globe, with polio vaccination activities postponed as part of measures to curb the pandemic’s spread.

It said to support the response in the African Region, it was decided in March last year that the polio programme would direct 60% to 70% of its combined resources to COVID-19, while maintaining critical functions such as disease surveillance and planning to resume mass polio immunisation campaigns once the situation permitted.

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