…experts proffer solution
Numerous flaws have been discovered in the nation’s polio vaccination program that contributed to the recent outbreak in Borno State after more than two years without a case of wild polio virus in Nigeria. One of such flaws, according to the Chairman National Polioplus Committee, Rotary International, Dr. Tunde Funso, is Nigeria’s inability to maintain high quality vaccines due to ineffective cold chain system.
In his views, places like Borno State where there is insurgency lacks electricity hence the quality of immunization will not be optimal.
“When you are in an environment that is disrupting such as the north east state, for the cold chain system to be effective there has to be electricity, if there is no electricity there has to be ice.
For him, Nigeria should accept that there were inefficiencies on its part, particularly in the area of infrastructure, inability to cover all the children as well as ensuring effective cold chain system.
Corroborating his views, Former Head, Immunology/Vaccinology Research, Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Dr Adesina Adeiga, pointed out that there are still many hard to reach areas and many vaccinators refuses to go there. “This reoccurrence happened in a hard to reach area, due to the insurgent. We have experienced this before in other places such as sokoto, many vaccinators don’t want to go there, they use to do away with the vaccines”, he said.
For solution, Dr. Adeiga, said Federal Government has to send more people to these places and monitor people that are vaccinating. “Government need to collaborate with the neighbouring countries to prevent spread, we must promote health education especially on nutrition, the children must be routinely dewormed because worm infection limit the effectiveness of the vaccine, the community were this happen must be involved in the planning and implementation of polio eradication programs”, he said.
MAP News investigation reveals that Nigeria is using military helicopters to rush polio vaccines to Gwoza and Jere Local Government Areas (LGA) of Borno State, where both polio cases were diagnosed. The LGAs have been under attack by Boko Haram militants, making it difficult to vaccinate children and monitor residents for signs of polio. Health workers have been killed while trying to vaccinate children.
According to Dr. Funso, there is need to strengthen the nation’s routine immunization program as well as intensify surveillance activities.
“Government has come up with strategies to curb the outbreak. One of the strategies is to make sure that lots of children get immunized. Because of this outbreak, government have initiated three rounds of immunization which will take place in Borno, Gombe, Adamawa and Yobe State on the 27th of August, 24th of Sept and 27th of October.
The strategy is to make sure we caption as many children as possible. The second strategy is to increase the immunity of children to prevent new infection”, he said.
Also, President of Rotary Club of Abuja, Gwarinpa, Angella Agbayekhai, said recently that there are still cases of rejection of vaccination by parents which is still an obstacle in the fight to eliminate Polio virus completely in the country.
Angella said these cases are not limited to those in remote areas, but are recorded even in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
She called on parents across the country to ensure their children are immunized against all diseases through “simple” vaccination, which is at no cost to the parents and guardians.
Until the two infections emerged, Nigeria has been without a Polio outbreak for more than two years. The last known infection was July 2014.
According to experts, the outbreak has slowed down Nigeria’s progress toward a polio free status. Nigeria was due to be declared polio free by the World Health Organisation if it made it to July 24 next year without a new case.
Angella said country could only defeat polio and other killer diseases by sustained vaccination of all children.
Meanwhile, The Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH), a non-governmental organization working on maternal and child health in the country, said the late/non release of the N12.8bn approved for routine immunization five months after the President’s accent to the 2016 budget, may have contributed to the reoccurrence of the polio case.
They questioned the commitment of the Nigerian government to save the lives of over 7.2 million Nigerian children from vaccine preventable killer diseases adding that further delay in release of funds may lead to more outbreaks.
The Community Health and Research Initiative CHR and PACFaH, Project Director, Dr Aminu Magashi Garba, said the delay in releasing Routine Immunization funds puts the country at risk of experiencing stock out of vaccines in few months. “Immunization is the way to go to save the lives of our children, reduce cost of health care and give the children who are the leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to live their potential, but if we as a nation cannot provide health care to our children what message are we sending to the world?”, he said.
In a recent statement, UNICEF Polio Eradication Director Reza Hossaini, said the two cases undermine the whole efforts to completely eradicate polio from Nigeria. Although the two cases were discovered in parts of Borno that has recently become accessible, Hossaini expressed concern that large part of the State still remains unreachable.
“We cannot deny the connection between conflict and the continued threat of polio. The two new cases mean children across the Lake Chad region are now at particular risk. With our partners, we will not stop until we reach every child with polio vaccination,” he said.
To the effect, the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria, supported by the WHO, UNICEF, and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, are rolling out an emergency immunisation campaign, starting in the accessible parts of Borno state”, he said.