Immunisation exercise
Immunisation exercise

By most accounts, immunisation is
the process whereby a person is made
immune or resistant to an infectious
disease, typically by the administration of
a vaccine. “Immunisation protects people
against diseases like measles, mumps,
rubella, hepatitis B, polio, diphtheria,
tetanus, whooping cough and chicken
pox, among others,” health experts said.
The experts explained that vaccines
stimulate the body’s immune system to
protect the person against an infection
or disease. World Health Organisation
(WHO) said immunisation is a proven
tool for controlling and eliminating lifethreatening
infectious diseases, adding
that it is estimated to avert between two
and three million deaths every year.
“It is one of the most cost-effective health
investments, with proven strategies that
make it accessible to even the most hardto-
reach and vulnerable populations. It
has clearly defined target groups; it can
be delivered effectively through outreach
activities; and vaccination does not
require any major lifestyle change,” the
global health organisation said.
However, www.mamalette.com,
a website treating parenting issues,
explained that whenever babies are born,
they inherit specific types of antibodies
(substances produced by the body to fight
disease) from their mothers. It said that
these antibodies are also nature’s way of
protecting the babies when they are most
vulnerable to contracting diseases.
The online publication, nonetheless,
says that around six months of age,
these antibodies start to diminish and
almost completely disappear by the
time a baby is one-year-old. “In an ideal
situation, babies, at this stage, should
start producing their own antibodies: the
beginning of their immune system, as
they increasingly become exposed to the
diseases which the maternal antibodies
had previously protected them against.
“However, after access to clean water
and breastfeeding, immunisation is
the most highly effective intervention
for protecting babies from contracting
infectious diseases,” www.mamalette.
com said. Nevertheless, the online
publication said that vaccine preventable
diseases account for approximately 22 per
cent of child deaths in Nigeria, resulting
in 200,000 deaths per year.
As a result, the federal government
recently launched the sixth edition of
the African Vaccination Week (AVW)
to reinforce its political will to attain
universal vaccination coverage in Nigeria.
Dr Ado Muhammad, the Executive
Director, National Primary Healthcare
Development Agency (NPHCDA), said
that AVW was also a good platform to
raise public awareness on the importance
of vaccination in efforts to reduce child
mortality.
He said that the agency would also
offer integrated health care services to the
people in three local government areas in Oyo
State and IDPs camps in Borno.
Muhammad said that the services would
include vaccination for both children and
adults against vaccine preventable diseases,
medical consultations and treatment of minor
illnesses, among others.
He pledged the commitment of the federal
government and its development partners
to having a polio-free Nigeria by 2017 and
delivering potent vaccines to Nigerians.
The executive director urged parents and
caregivers to take their children and wards to
healthcare facilities for routine immunisation
against polio and other diseases.
“The fact that immunisation is effective, lifesaving
and free is a message that we should
never stop communicating to our people. The
onus is, therefore, on us as caregivers to ensure
that our families, especially our children, are
protected from vaccine preventable diseases
such as tuberculosis, tetanus, diphtheria,
meningitis, pneumonia, measles and polio,
among others.
“These diseases constitute a huge burden to
our society and they are also a major cause of
deaths in children below the age of five years.
Polio immunisation campaigns will continue,
as we do not want any re-infection until we
are certified a polio free country in 2017,” he
said.
Also, Dr Rui Gama Vaz, Country
Representative of WHO in Nigeria, while
commending the federal government for
its feats in the fight against polio, however,
warned that routine immunisation data
indicated that some states still had a lot of
unimmunised children.
“This scenario results into low population
immunity, thereby increasing the risks for
disease outbreaks,’’ he said. He, therefore,
called for high-level political commitment
and sustained funding for immunisation
programmes at all levels of government until
polio was totally eradicated, while infant
mortality, caused by vaccine preventable
diseases, was significantly reduced.
Besides, Vaz urged the Federal Ministry
of Health and its agencies to scale up
immunisation activities at Nigeria’s
international borders so as to ensure that
settlers in those areas had access to vaccines.
However, Dr Kabiru Getso, Kano State
Commissioner for Health, said that the
state had recorded an appreciable decline
in the incidences of death from vaccine
preventable diseases. He said that the state
had also made a remarkable progress in all
aspects of immunisation services.
The commissioner said that there had been
considerable progress in the areas of cold
chain and logistics as well as community
mobilisation, while the coverage of “Penta
Vaccine’’ had been increased from three to
300 per cent.
“Despite the achievements, almost all
local government areas reported measles
cases and the data quality assurance
surveys have shown consistent gaps across
the levels of reporting. The quality of
outreach services has also indicated that
a lot needed to be done to close the wide
gap on unimmunised children,” he said.
Besides, Getso called for greater efforts
at community linkage activities and
accountability of health workers entrusted
with service delivery, documentation
and reporting of data. Similarly, Kaduna
State Government has reiterated its
commitment to achieving 100-per-cent
anti-polio immunisation coverage in
the state. Governor Nasir el-Rufai who
gave the assurance when he inaugurated
the European Union (EU) Support to
Immunisation Governance project, said
that government would give priority to
efforts to improve the health care system
and revamp the education sector of the
state. He stressed that his administration
was committed to achieving 100-per-cent
immunisation coverage and 100-per-cent
penetration within the shortest possible
time.
Nevertheless, the United Nations
Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)
said that almost two-thirds of
unimmunised children live in conflict
prone countries. A statement signed by
UNICEF Chief of Immunisation, Mr Robin
Nandy, ranked South Sudan as having
the highest percentage of unimmunised
children in Africa with a total of 61 per
cent.
It added that Somalia occupied the
second position with 58 per cent. “Conflict
creates an ideal environment for disease
outbreaks. Children miss out in basic
immunisation because of the breakdown
and sometimes deliberate destruction of
vital health services. “Even when medical
services are available, insecurity in the
area often prevents them from reaching
children,” the statement said.
It noted that measles, diarrhoea,
respiratory infections and malnutrition
were major causes of childhood illness
and death, while in conflicts and
emergencies, their effects could worsen.
The statement said that less than one per
cent of children who contracted measles
in non-conflict settings died, adding that
overcrowding and malnutrition, like
the one experienced in refugee camps,
contributed to 30 per cent of deaths from
measles.
“Overcrowding and lack of basic
necessities like food, water and shelter
make children even more vulnerable
to diseases. Areas in conflict also see
the killing of health workers and the
destruction of medical facilities, supplies
and equipment; all of which have a
disastrous effect on children’s health,” it
said.
All the same, experts insist that if
tangible efforts are made to improve
global vaccination coverage, over one
million deaths will be averted every year.

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