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Nigeria to attain polio-free status in 11 months, says NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) says Nigeria may be certified polio-free in next 11 months, if access to insecure areas in Borno State, and some parts of the North-East improves.

Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib disclosed this, on Monday, in Abuja, during the 36th meeting of the Expert Review Committee on Polio and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria.

The executive director said Nigeria was very close to obtaining a polio eradication certificate, adding that the country had gone over 24 months with very strong surveillance without a case of wild polio virus.

Shuaib said the surveillance showed clearly that 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.

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“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.

Shuaib reiterated the agency’s commitment to sustain 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, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, said that there was hope and enthusiasm by the key stakeholders to end polio and strengthen routine immunisation programmes in the country.

He said Nigeria should not relent on its routine immunisation programmes even after securing certificate of a polio-free status.

The outgoing Country Representative, 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.

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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.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that 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.

Alemu said the ongoing accelerated efforts to ramp up coverage for all routine expanded programme on immunisation vaccines was commendable.

According to him, attaining and sustaining high immunisation coverage is the foundation for measles elimination and other accelerated disease control initiatives.

The country representative assured the meeting of its full support as Nigeria moved towards ending polio.

He commended NPHCDA for its ability to provide avenue for the partners to work together towards a common cause.

The meeting observed a minute silence in honour of health workers that lost their lives in the cause of polio eradication programmes across the country.

NAN reports that the battle to attain a polio-free Nigeria had been on since 2014.

In 2016, the global public health community was thrown into anxiety with the detection of four new cases of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in rapid succession in Borno State, Northeast Nigeria.

At the 34th meeting of the ERC, the consensus was that insecurity is still a major challenge in Borno State, leading to inaccessibility, and this remains a significant risk to global eradication efforts. (NAN)