By Asmau Ahmad
Professor of Virology, Professor Abdulsalam Nasidi says no one should die from a preventable disease because routine immunisation has saved lives for generations and will continue to do so in the future.
Nasidi, who is also a pioneer Director of National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), who stated this in an interview says that a long life for all starts with access to vaccines.
According to him, vaccines are powerful tools to fight against emerging and re-emerging infections like Polio, yellow fever, cervical cancer and more.
The Virologist said that there was a need for the country to bridge routine immunisation vaccines access gap, ensuring that everyone everywhere especially people living in the hard-to-reach areas get vaccinated.
“Pathogens and viruses are not bound by national borders; local or international mobility of people can rapidly spread infections, underpinning the need for immunization/vaccination.
“Universal access to vaccines gives people a fair shot at a healthier future, free from the threat of preventable disease. Vaccines will help us end the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
Nasidi stressed the need to strengthen the health information system in the country, to allow health workers and decision-makers to generate reliable and high-quality “fit-for-purpose” data to help manage immunisation programmes across the country.
He stressed the need for African leaders to act fast in setting up policies and an enabling environment that would ensure equitable vaccine production to meet teeming demands.
“With ongoing vaccine manufacturing plans for Africa, if we don’t have the right people in place, no amount of product will help us succeed.
“We need lab techs, clinicians, Community Health Workers; they’re all health workers. And they’re all essential,” he said.
He said investment should be followed with proper accountability and transparency.
Nasidi said the experience of the defunct Yaba (Lagos State) vaccine centre should serve as a big lesson to the Nigerian government.
He said that the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) played an essential role in supporting communities and health systems.
“They have been at the core of working with different government agencies to increase sustainable health access to communities that would otherwise miss out on the essential services.
“They play a critical role in supporting the overall immunisation agenda by expanding and deepening engagements of CSOs,” he said.
On the COVID-19 vaccines, he said there was a need for more nurses, midwives, and Community Health Workers, all ready and deployed to every city and community to support the COVID-19 vaccination drive.