By Iyema David
The newly reconstituted leadership of Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation (ERC), in Nigeria, have pledged to do the utmost in ensuring that they rid the country of all forms of the polio virus.
The reconstituted ERC under the leadership of Prof Akin Osibogun, Chairman, Lagos State Primary Healthcare Board, made the pledge at the 38th ERC, two days meeting, organized by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), on Monday in Abuja.
As part of efforts to prevent importation of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV), into the country, the Nigerian government reconstituted the ERC. The new effort is in response to the recent outbreak of WPV in Malawi and Nigeria’s experience with a circulating variant of poliovirus type 2 (cVPV2).
The ERC will provide expert advice and guidance on strategies and approaches for polio eradication and routine immunisation.
The committee will review the country’s situation by taking into consideration population-based and laboratory studies, programmatic approaches, cost information, and other issues so as to provide practical advice to the country.
The ERC’s expert advice contributed immensely to the country’s achievement of WPV-free status in August 2020.
Consequently, it has become imperative to reactivate the committee following the recent outbreak of WPV in Malawi and the outbreaks of circulating variant of poliovirus type 2 (cVPV2) in Nigeria.
Osibogun said that the objective cut for the committee was essentially to advise on strategies to prevent re-introduction of wild polio virus in the country and end the circulating vaccine derived polio virus in the country through strengthening of the immunization programme, Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance, community mobilization and advocacy, environmental monitoring and other appropriate strategies.
“I am confident that with this assembly of experts on the ERC, we will be able to achieve our goal which is to ensure all eligible children are reached irrespective of their location in the country.
“The current meeting will afford us the opportunity to review the progress and implementation status of the recommendations made from the 37th ERC.
“We have the opportunity to look at those challenges that have lingered in the program and proffer lasting solutions in order for us to retain our certification status,” he explained.
He commended the previous ERC under the leadership of Prof Oyewale Tomori, a renowned Professor of Virology and foundation Vice Chancellor of Redeemer University, noting that the committee did a tremendous job for over two decades and succeeded in getting Nigeria certified wild Polio virus free.
He added that the Federal Government and other levels of government in the country have shown commitment which would enabled them to earn the wild polio free certification.
“It is important to sustain that commitment so that our earlier gains are not lost,” he stressed.
Earlier, the Executive Director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib said that the ERC was expected to work with the NPHCDA to come up with multi-stakeholder plans to strengthen surveillance, build population immunity, mitigate against and control all forms of polioviruses.
Shuaib noted that the country’s certification event on August 25, 2020 was a great milestone in the history of the country, as President Muhammadu Buhari, on behalf of the Federal Government and the African Region, received the certificate of African Region’s Wild Poliovirus-free status at the Presidential villa.
The NPHCDA boss, said that the agency having in mind the recommendations from the 37th ERC meeting in 2019, have made appreciable progress in both Routine Immunization and the control of circulating Variant Polio Virus type 2 (cVPV2).