By Asma’u Ahmad
The Federal Government on Wednesday said no fewer than 420,000 people had received meningitis vaccination to mitigate the effects of the outbreak of the disease in parts of the country.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, announced this to State House Correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in Abuja.
He said that about 70 per cent of meningitis outbreak was recorded in Zamfara, noting that all the medical teams had arrived in the state to improve on the strategy to reach out to the population and spread the vaccination.
“As of now, about 420,000 people have been vaccinated in Zamfara state and I can tell you that we are beginning to see the `plato’ that is to say that the epidemic is no more rising,
“It is beginning to flatten out and we hope that it is going to come down soon. By this weekend, we are expecting 823,000 vaccines from the UK. They have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) quality-wise.
“It is a special kind of vaccine called the conjugate vaccine which has a longer protection of about 10 years than the usual vaccine which we have been using before, which is called the polysaccharide vaccine. That gives protection for about two or three years,” the minister said.
The minister said that as of now there were 4,637 suspected cases out of which 489 fatalities were recorded with 207 already confirmed in laboratory tests. He said that the vaccination team would move to Sokoto State in a few days to use the vaccines to control the situation.
Dr. Ehanire said that the outbreak was reported late in some of the affected states, noting that people taught it was mild sickness. He denied rumours that the vaccines had gone into private pharmacies as the vaccines had passed through the primary health care agencies of government for administration to victims.
Ehanire said government had yet to determine how many vaccines would be required but added that government had placed order for two million dozes. He said that government would continue to administer what was provided and would make additional requests when the need arose.
He also said that response to the outbreak was professional and that health authorities were on top of the situation. On the proactive measures being put in place for eventual outbreak of cholera and gastro-enteritis as rainy season sets in, he said there was a very good level of preparedness to tackle the situation.
He also said that government had in place a system that prepared and anticipated such outbreaks but noted that it might be difficult to determine where the outbreak would emerge. He noted that government used to carry out preventive measures against seasonal diseases such as malaria.
The minister said that the preparation was on-going and constantly being reviewed in partnership with WHO, UNICEF and others to protect the population from diseases.