By Iyemah David
Chairman of the Board of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, Professor Oyewale Tomori, has called on the Federal Government to increase its immunisation coverage to 80 percent, to prevent diphtheria and other preventable diseases in the country.
Tomori, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Biovaccines Nigeria Limited (BVNL), gave the advice on Tuesday in an interview with in Abuja.
The professor of virology was reacting to the death of a four-year-old child claimed by the diphtheria disease in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Diphtheria is an acute and highly contagious bacterial disease which can lead to difficulty breathing, heart rhythm problems and even death.
Tomori said that despite the existing immunisation programme, the number of children unvaccinated every year in the country was high.
According to him, unless the country raises its immunisation coverage to at least 80 per cent, more vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks would occur.
He added that if proper measures had not taken, there would be more reports of diphtheria infections and possibly deaths in the country.
“No child anywhere should die from any vaccine-preventable disease. Every effort must be made to vaccinate all Nigerian children. We must ensure that we get our children vaccinated and protected against all vaccine-preventable diseases, and also receive supplemental vitamin A.”
According to him, infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to severe complications from diphtheria.
“Routine childhood immunisation programmes typically include the diphtheria vaccine as part of the combination vaccine called Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis vaccine.
“This vaccine is usually administered in a series of doses, starting in infancy to provide protection against diphtheria.
“However, it’s important to note that individuals who have not received the full course of vaccination or who have not received booster shots may still be susceptible to diphtheria, regardless of their age,” he said.
Tomori said that vaccination together with maintaining good hygiene practices and seeking prompt medical attention for symptoms was imperative to prevent diphtheria in the country.
The Director of FCT Public Health Department, Dr Sadiq Abdulrahman, raised an alarm over the outbreak of diphtheria disease in some parts of Abuja, with one death recorded.
He said the results of samples taken from suspected cases in a village close to Dei-Dei have established the breakout.
Also, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) confirmed one death from diphtheria disease in the FCT.
Its Director-General, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, who predicted a spike in diphtheria cases, blamed it on the gaps in vaccination coverage.