WHO urges FG to strengthen routine immunization to protect 24,000 babies daily

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called on the Federal Government to strengthen routine immunization to protect more than 24,000 babies born daily, to receive all vaccines scheduled for the first two years of their lives.

Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO Country Representative, Nigeria, made the call at an event to commemorate the 2022 African Vaccination Week (AVW) in Abuja.

It was organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that AVN is an annual event celebrated during the last week of April in synchronisation with other WHO Regions and World Immunization Week (WIW).

The goal of the AVW is to strengthen immunization programmes in the African Region by increasing awareness of the importance of every person’s (particularly every child and woman) need and right to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The over-arching slogan of AVW is “Vaccinated Communities, Healthy Communities”.

However, to commemorate this year’s AVW, Nigeria hasa adoptedthe theme “Long Life for All – Vaccinate for Healthy Living”.

Mulombo said that he was aware of the Nigeria Strategy for Routine Immunisation and Primary Health Care Systems Strengthening (NSIPSS) 2.0.

It focuses on drastically reducing the unimmunised in zero-dose children by the end of 2024.

“I want to therefore appreciate the timely introduction of the Immunization Performance Recognition Awards, given the symbolic impact it would provide in ensuring that sub-national leaderships drove the enabling factors required for high and sustained immunization coverage,” he said.

The WHO Rep. assured Nigerians of its continued commitment to the agenda of PHC revitalisation, immunization systems strengthening and interruption of the cVPDV2 outbreak in the country.

“I am very confident with the strategies adapted and we will continue to sustain eradication of WPV in Nigeria,” he added.

The Representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Dr Eduardo Blanco, UNICEF Nigeria Chief of Health, said the hard work, perseverance and dedication of the frontline health workers, including doctors, nurses, midwives and volunteers working to provide health and immunization services to Nigerians, was astonishing.

“I have seen the hard work, efforts, commitment and perseverance of health workers at all levels; I have witnessed community volunteers working tirelessly in their communities.

“I have seen health workers working 24/7 to provide services to women and children

And I have observed the leadership, commitment and sound technical knowledge of NPHCDA and Federal Ministry of Health staff at all levels,” Blanco said.

Dr Melissa Freeman, Rep. USAID Nigeria, said as Nigeria celebrated, it must not forget to continuously emphasise that vaccines and hand washing remained the most effective public health measures for disease prevention and control.

Freeman said the country had made progress in improving routine immunization and reaching zero doses and under-immunized children.

“It is my earnest hope that we continue making progress until we can globally eliminate more than just smallpox.

“USAID Routine Immunization programmes are implemented across 16 states, including humanitarian settings.

She said the polio programmes provided support since 1998, contributing to the wild polio eradication three years ago.

“At the same time, USAID supported routine immunization and global health security efforts to strengthen surveillance and response to newly emerging diseases,” she said.

She, however, said she looked forward to the outcomes of USAID’s $33.3 million support for the SCALES 3.0 COVID-19 vaccination acceleration across 36 states and the FCT.

According to her, that would help ensure shots in arms for the U.S. Government donation of over 48 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, on the sideline of the event, the Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria (BA-N), with support from USAID, had a soft launch of its newest COVID-19 Social Behaviour Change campaign tagged “Follow Who Know Road (FWKR)”.

At their exhibition stand to commemorate the AWV, they distributed some promotional materials such as T-shirts, Face caps, Lapel pins, Bumper stickers, jotters, fliers, and danglers and also shared out different SBC materials across all programme areas, including Tuberculosis, Nutrition, Family Planning, Malaria.

In the last three years, in spite of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health, social and economic wellbeing of Nigerians, Nigeria had continued to make significant strides by repositioning itself to deliver high-impact and cost-effective interventions through its programmes and policies.

These interventions are deliberately developed and implemented through National Routine Immunization Coordination Centre (NERICC), National Emergency Maternal and Child Health Intervention Centre (NEMCHIC) and Community Health Influencers and Promoters Services (CHIPS).

However, as these strides are being made towards reducing the high burden of vaccine-preventable diseases in the country, some gaps remain, especially in the areas of demand generation and funding.

This prompted the need for collaboration and partnership with different stakeholders to complement government efforts.

The commemoration of 2022 African Vaccination Week is an opportunity for Nigeria to galvanise action in partnership with relevant stakeholders.

This will draw National and Global attention to the importance of immunization as most cost-effective public health intervention for “long life and healthy living”.(NAN)

•PHOTO: Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo