UNICEF lauds increasing immunisation rate among Nigerian children
Peter Hawkins, the Country Representative, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Nigeria, says the improvement recorded in the number of children immunised against diseases in the country is fantastic.
“In 2016, it was 34 per cent Penta three, so three, Penta vaccines for a child, now it is at 57 per cent so that improvement is fantastic. Over the past three to four years, it increased from 50 per cent to 57 per cent,” he said in an interview on Sunday.
The National Immunisation Coverage Survey (NICS) 2021 revealed that 57 per cent of Nigerian children received all three doses of pentavalent vaccines.
Mr Hawkins said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria was able to record an improvement in immunisation indices even when some other countries witnessed a drop.
“So, that increase is fantastic, in actual fact, given that in the middle, we had COVID and in most countries, immunisation dropped.”
Mr Hawkins, however, said that though there was a measurable improvement, 57 per cent is still insufficient for a country like Nigeria and that the indicators around child mortality demonstrate that.
According to him, the problem is that some states are performing at a high level, while some only record slight improvement.
“Lagos State is at 82 per cent if I remember correctly, and they have sustained it at that level, whereas a state like Sokoto has gone from seven per cent to 11 per cent.
“Eleven per cent is the problem there. So it’s looking at the states where immunisation is low, seeing what the fundamental problems of why and then unbottling those bottlenecks to ensure that they go up to the 57 per cent, 60 per cent and ultimately get to 80 per cent,” Mr Hawkins said.
He also said there are communities with zero-dose children, adding that some communities, even in Lagos, where immunisation has not reached.
Mr Hawkins explained that the NPHCDA, together with Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunisation (GAVI) and UNICEF, have been working hard to ensure those communities are not left behind.
He also said that continuous financing for vaccines should be enabled to ensure that the gap is closed.
For malaria vaccine for children, he said it would herald a significant change in child mortality.
He added that though the vaccine is still expensive, it will be included in routine immunisation to prevent children from dying from malaria once they become available.
The 2021 World Malaria Report (WMR 2021) indicates that Nigeria contributes 27 per cent of the global malaria cases and 32 per cent of global malaria deaths.
In 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced its recommendation for widespread use of the RTS, S /AS01 (RTS, S ) malaria vaccine among children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions with moderate to high P. falciparum malaria transmission.
The recommendation was based on results from a pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that reached more than 900,000 children since 2019.
Though the malaria vaccine is still under review, the global target of the World Health Organisation is to reduce the incidence of the disease by at least 30 per cent by 2030.
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