Why Boko Haram May Stop Nigeria's Polio-Free Status Achievement
Nigeria is pursing a polio-free status and it hopes to attain it in the next 11 months, but there may be a setback to that dream.
Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast has hindered access to some communities in the area to be sure there are no cases of wild polio.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) acknowledged this challenge on Monday, saying Nigeria may be certified polio-free in next 11 months, if access to insecure areas in Borno, and some parts of the North-East improves.
The Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, at the 36th meeting of the Expert Review Committee on Polio and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria which was held in Abuja, said Nigeria was very close to obtaining a polio eradication certificate.
According to him, Nigeria had gone over 24 months with very strong surveillance without a case of wild polio virus.
Shuaib said the surveillance showed clearly that the government was not missing any wild polio in the country.
“If this positive trajectory continues, then it is very likely that certification institutions will review the progress that Nigeria has made and the lack of wild polio virus transmission.
"Very likely, in the next few months, we will be certified a polio-free nation.
"It will be an unprecedented declaration in the life of Nigerians; a situation where no single child is paralysed due to wild polio virus," he said.
'Number Is Shrinking'
Shuaib reiterated the agency’s commitment to sustaining the population’s immunity against wild polio virus and other vaccine-preventable diseases through strengthened routine immunisation programmes.
"One of the greatest challenges we still face is around mothers and care givers bringing their kids to health facilities to access routine immunisation, even in the urban centres where places are accessible.
“We still have that challenge largely because folks have not realised the need for kids to take the full complement of routine immunisation vaccines let alone in the hard-to-reach areas,’’ the executive director said.
He urged parents and caregivers to visit health facilities and access such services.
The Chairman of the review committee, Professor Oyewale Tomori, said that there was hope and enthusiasm by the key stakeholders to end polio and strengthen routine immunisation programmes in Nigeria.
He requested that Nigeria should not relent on its routine immunisation programmes even after securing certificate of a polio-free status.
The outgoing Country Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Wondi Alemu, said progress had been achieved in accessing trapped children, adding that available data showed the number was shrinking.
“This will help us in expanding our reach in terms of administering vaccines and tracking down, if any, the circulation of wild polio virus,’’ Alemu said.
He said that sustained population immunity through routine immunisation remained key for polio eradication adding that the outbreak of cVDPV2 outbreaks pointed at gaps in immunity.
The cVDPV2 is a type 2 strain of polio largely from environmental samples, although they are not wild polio cases they present with similar symptoms.
CVDPV2 are as a result of several years of low routine immunisation coverage.
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