By Abujah Racheal, Abuja.
The Federal Government has introduced vaccine against rotavirus into its routine immunisation schedule, in recognition of the magnitude of rotavirus-related diarrhoea disease in the country.
This has been done through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
Dr Walter Mulombo, WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, at the launch on Monday in Abuja, said that the vaccine was necessary to help curb the effect of the disease.
Mulombo said that the government’s introduction of vaccine had provided an opportunity to reduce the number of children dying daily from diarrhoea disease.
A rotavirus infection usually starts within two days of exposure to the virus. Early symptoms are fever and vomiting, followed by three to seven days of watery diarrhoea.
The infection can cause abdominal pain as well. In healthy adults, a rotavirus infection may cause only mild signs and symptoms or none at all.
According to Mulombo, Nigeria is set to avert rotavirus diarrhoea, attributable to hospitalisations and deaths.
He noted that children with rotavirus diarrhoea would lose a lot of fluids and become dehydrated, leading to hospitalisation and in some cases, death.
“The public health impact of rotavirus vaccine introduction has been demonstrated in several countries, with as much as 50 per cent deaths from diarrhoeal diseases averted in some.
“The introduction should be part of a comprehensive strategy to control diarrhoeal diseases, with the scaling up of both preventive and treatment packages,” he said.
Mulombo said that Nigeria, being one of the four countries that harboured approximately half the global burden, stood to have enormous gains from the economic impact of the introduction.
He said that immunisation remained the most cost-effective public health intervention, adding that unfortunately, the benefits of immunisation were unevenly shared.
“The immunisation agenda 2030 and the GAVI 5.0 strategy seek to address this gap by leaving no one behind with immunization.
“This is also in keeping with the UN Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ health of ending preventable deaths and ensuring health and wellbeing,” he said
Mulombo said that Nigeria should continue to implement the strategies to address gaps in immunisation throughout the life course and prevent deaths.
“If we stop vaccination, deadly diseases will return and when people are not vaccinated, infectious diseases that have become uncommon can quickly return,” he said.
“Indeed, immunisation is the right of every Nigerian child and the government of Nigeria has sustained this partnership.
“The investments in promoting immunisation through the life course, as also demonstrated by the progress in the COVID-19 vaccination, are commendable,’’ he said.
The WHO country representative, therefore, commended the government of Nigeria for keeping immunisation high on the national agenda.
According to him, it is very significant to sustain the awareness creation on immunisation through network engagement, which the African Vaccination Week provides.
He said that the commemoration of the African Vaccination Week, with the theme “Long Life for All’’, provided a veritable platform to boost awareness on the importance and values of immunisation and its life-saving potential.
He pledged the sustained commitment of WHO to providing technical support for the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine into the country’s routine immunisation schedule and other health interventions.
Dr Eduardo Celades Blanco, the Representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Chief of Health, said that investing in Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) was a cornerstone for preventing maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.
Blanco called on the governments of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to invest in their PHCs.
He said that the country was among the few that would now have Rotavirus Vaccines, free of charge, in all public hospitals across the country.
Prof. Becky Tagbo, the representative of United States of America, Centres Disease Control and Prevention (U.S.-CDC), said that the U.S. government aligned with the Nigerian government in the ongoing efforts to reduce and eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases.
“We are also committed to ensuring that the Rota Vaccine is available to all eligible children in Nigeria,” Tagbo said.
The 2022 African Vaccination Week will be marked with several events and activities.
It will also bring the message of immunisation to all households and communities, while providing the opportunity for all to get vaccinated and receive other high-impact lifesaving interventions.