As Nigeria joins other African countries to celebrate the sixth African Vaccination Week, government has reiterated its commitment to clinch the World Health Organisation’s, WHO, polio-free certificate by 2017, Joyce Remi-Babayeju writes.

Nigeria joined other African countries to commemorate the sixth African Vaccination Week last Monday, with government promising to put all mechanisms in place toward ensuring that by next year, the country would be free of this leg-twisting disease.

Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, Dr. Ado Mohammed, expressed the federal government’s determination to obtain the much expected polio-free certification from the World Health Organisation, WHO, by 2017.
There was a joint media briefing in Abuja by stakeholders like WHO, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to reiterate their support for Nigeria’s success.
Mohammed, who expressed government’s commitment, also highlighted the gains that the country has made in polio vaccination exercise around the country and its determination to continue with the process.
‘’It is about 21 months now without a case of wild polio virus in Nigeria. This is very strategic. Together with partners, we are committed to sustaining the gains that we made, so that come 2017, Nigeria will be declared a polio-free country. Our achievement shows that immunisation works. We need to see how we can also strengthen routine immunisation for other vaccine-preventable diseases. This is because ultimately, we have to put machinery in motion to ensure that routine immunisation works very well.’’
According to him, the event, ‘Africa Vaccination Week’, gives the agency another opportunity to express appreciation to Nigerians and our partners.
‘’To the Nigerian people, for believing in the polio eradication programme, we want to use this medium to appreciate you and also all our partners for their support.’’
He said the theme of this year’s Africa Vaccination Week is “Close Immunisation Gap: Stay Polio Free.” This is very apt to us in Nigeria as we try to maintain our zero case status. This explains why we recently had local immunisation days in 70 vulnerable areas in the southern part of the country; between the April 9-12. The essence is for us to guide against new infection of wild polio virus in those locations.
The NPHCDA boss promised that immunisation campaigns will continue despite the fact that there is polio interruption in the country.
‘’Yes, we have interrupted transmission. Yes, Nigeria has been removed as a polio endemic country, we need to understand the difference between having achieved interruption and being polio free. We still have some few months to go before Nigeria is certified free of polio. That is if we maintain the zero-case status, which we are committed and determined to do. Therefore, we will still continue with campaigns and the reason is to reinforce the vaccination of our children.
‘’We want to appeal to parents and caregivers to continue to allow our vaccinators access their children whenever the campaigns are on. We also want to plead that parents and caregivers ensure that they take their wards to health facilities to benefit from routine immunisation.
‘’We are not only targeting polio, but other vaccine-preventable diseases. As evidence shows that vaccine-preventable diseases account for over 40 percent of under-five mortality. And, if we have to reduce our under-five mortality, we should go beyond polio vaccination; we should also ensure that our children benefit from other vaccine-preventable diseases.’’
Dr Ado disclosed that to mark this year’s Africa Vaccination Week, the agency is targeting Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, and communities with low immunisation coverage in order to close any gap.
‘‘I want to report that both government and partners reaffirmed their commitment to support immunisation and to also provide the needed human and material resources. This is to ensure that Nigeria is certified polio free by WHO in 2017.’’
This conference was organised to pass the message to all Nigerians that government and its partners are committed to bequeathing a polio-free country come 2017 and the delivery of vaccines to tackle other non-communicable diseases.
Africa Vaccination Week was first conducted in 2011, with the objective to strengthen the health system through advocacy, education with the aim of reducing morbidity and mortality due to vaccine-preventable diseases.

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