Last week I published “Closing the Immunization Gap” which is the global theme for the World Immunization Week (24-30 April 2015). I promise to continue this week focusing on Nigeria. While the global campaign focuses on ‘closing the immunization gap’ the African Vaccination Week 2015 holding same week (24 April 2015 – 30 April 2015) focuses on ‘Vaccination a gift for life’. In Nigeria, the week has started with a press conference on Thursday 23rd April 2015. During the event led by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, (NPHCDA), it was reiterated that Nigeria will leverage on the gains of Africa Vaccination Week (AVW) and reach out to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria. With the goal to boost ‘population immunity’ among vulnerable groups, with main target at the internally displaced persons. “The strategy for boosting the population immunity in IDPs is through outreach services using health camps where integrated health services will be provided” said by Dr Ado Mohammad the NPHCDA Executive Director. He observed that “Vaccination remains the most cost effective way to ensuring disease prevention and eradication in any given society and it is our collective responsibility to ensure that children and all eligible persons are protected from the vaccine preventable diseases”. At the many IDP Camps in Nigeria, there has been reported cases of maternal and U-5 mortality caused by vaccine preventable diseases, but the NPHCDA is expressing optimism that its mapped out health outreach starting from 24th – 30th of April, in commemoration of the AVW week, will reduce the death of the most vulnerable groups currently in IDPs before they go back to their homes.
During same press conference, WHO Country representative, Dr, Rui Gama Vas on behalf of development partners observed that the outreach for IDPs is a right effort to strengthen routine immunization and prevent new infections from vaccine preventable diseases like Polio which has been interrupted for the past nine months in Nigeria. “I am glad this is happening now, Nigeria has to keep the tempo, to prevent new infections, especially now that polio have been interrupted in the country, it is my wish and the wish of the, that by July, Nigeria will record one year of polio interruption”
I am very glad that I participated at the outreach programme on Saturday 25th April 2015 in one of the Internally Displaces Persons (IDP) center in Abuja together with NPHCDA and NEMA team as well as the Abuja FCT Primary Health Care Development Agency. It was the flagging event where children received immunization, women attended to, demonstration for hand washing was done as well as distribution of food items and materials to the women in the IDP camp.
Our messages were very clear on the importance of Immunization as follows;
- Immunisation is widely recognised as one of the most successful and cost-effective global health interventions, saving up to three million lives every year.
- An estimated 1.5 million children die every year of vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the most recent estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO).
- One out of every five children (21.5 million children in 2013) across the world does not receive a full course of even the most basic vaccines, let alone more recently developed ones.
- Kids don’t receive vaccines because stocks run out, health clinics are too far away, some people have misunderstandings about vaccines, data about coverage is poor, and politicians don’t prioritise vaccination or give it enough funding.
- If countries improved routine immunisation coverage by an additional 2% per year, it would avert approximately 300,000 additional deaths due to vaccine-preventable diseases.
- Strengthening immunisation services will help sustain the gains already made and help close the gap in immunisation coverage.
- Routine immunisation is the sustainable, reliable and timely interaction between the vaccine, those who deliver it and those who receive it to ensure every person is fully immunised against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Iam also happy to note that Nigeria has made significant progress in immunizations and these gains must be sustained. Nigeria has significantly reduced under-five mortality by 22% between 2000 and 2013, and vaccination contributed to this progress. The Routine immunization (RI) administrative coverage has increased by 38% in the last two years. Since 2011, the country has successfully introduced three new vaccines in the RI system (Penta, PCV and IPV) and plans to introduce four additional vaccines (Rota, HPV, Men A and MR) by 2018. Nigeria is making significant steps towards polio interruption and eradication as no case of WPV has been reported for the past 8 months.
With all these laudable achievement, there are still challenges such as;
- Every year, about 800,000 Nigerian children die before their fifth birthday.
- Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate is 128 deaths per 1,000 live births. This implies that one in every eight children born in Nigeria dies before their fifth birthday.
- In 2013, it was estimated that more than 800,000 children under the age of five died in Nigeria. Most of the leading causes of child deaths (such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, injury, meningitis, and measles) are vaccine preventable.
- Vaccines are highly cost effective in preventing child deaths, therefore vaccine programs must be funded and sustained.
Vaccine financing is a good investment with immense health, economic and social benefits for the country. It is wise to conclude this article by referring to the theme ‘Vaccination a gift for life’. For us to ensure that ‘gift’, we must ensure increase in government funding for vaccines as the less-privileged in the society will be denied access to immunization services due to inability to pay.
1st published in Daily Trust Newspaper of 28th April 2015 by Dr Aminu Magashi publisher of Health Reporters at firstname.lastname@example.org