The Federal Government of Nigeria has kicked-off a campaign to reach more than 28 million children with lifesaving vaccines in an effort to boost their immunity against measles and meningitis. The vaccines would be administered in 19 northern states through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization – GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.
NPHCDA Director of Disease Control and Immunisation Dr. Joseph Oteri, in a statement released in Abuja on Saturday, noted that measles is a highly contagious respiratory viral disease with increased mortality and morbidity in children under five years. “Nigeria has experienced repeated outbreaks of measles in recent years due to low routine immunisation coverage. Nigeria is also within the meningitis belt where the incidence rate is very high, especially in the North,” Dr. Oteri said.
He reiterated the country’s commitment to ensure that every eligible child is reached with lifesaving vaccines. “To this end,” he said, “we would visit markets, schools, churches, mosques and everywhere we could get good catchment to reach our target population. No child deserves to die from any vaccine preventable disease.”
GAVI Country Programme Managing Director Thabani Maphosa said in the statement that GAVI was committed to the cause of Nigeria achieving its goal of improved immunisation coverage. “Diseases like measles are both devastating and easily preventable. More than 21 million lives around the world have been saved with the measles vaccine,” he said.
The WHO team lead of the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI), Dr. Fiona Braka, reiterated that the measles vaccine remains the most cost effective preventive measure against the disease. She maintained that WHO has resolved to support the Nigerian government in reaching every eligible child with the needed vaccines irrespective of location. “WHO Nigeria has trained over 44, 000 health workers and is mobilising over 17,000 vaccination teams to support these campaigns,” she said.