Nigerian children are estimated to be 6.2m unvaccinated by the WHO

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According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, 6.2 million Nigerian children are considered zero doses (unvaccinated), which is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s detrimental effects from 2019 to 2021.

This was said by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, on Tuesday in Abuja during a press conference to commemorate World Immunization Week and African Vaccination Week with the theme “The Big Catch-Up.”

“The Big Catch Up is actually a year-long campaign aiming to reverse the serious setbacks in routine immunization.

“We acknowledge current efforts by government for 83 per cent reduction in circulating Variant Polio Virus type 2.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, estimates  that 6.2 million Nigerian children are zero doses (unvaccinated), a consequence of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019 to 2021.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said this in Abuja on Tuesday at a news conference to celebrate the African Vaccination Week, AVW, and World Immunization Week with the theme “The Big Catch-Up’’.

“The Big Catch Up is actually a year-long campaign aiming to reverse the serious setbacks in routine immunization.

“We acknowledge current efforts by government for 83 per cent reduction in circulating Variant Polio Virus type 2.

“Also a significant feat in sustaining certification for the eradication Wild Polio Virus in Nigeria,’’ she said.

Dr. Walter Mulombo, WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, spoke on behalf of Moeti, who anticipated that between 2023 and 2025, 33 million children in Africa would need vaccinations.

She said that doing so would put the continent back on pace to meet the 2030 global immunization targets, which include lowering the morbidity and mortality rates from diseases that are preventable by vaccination.

“In the Africa Region, WHO estimate show that the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on routine immunization services has driven up the number of zero-dose and under-immunized children

“The effect causes rising by 16 per cent between 2019 and 2021 and pushing the cumulative total (2019–2021) to around 33 million, which represents nearly half the global estimate.

“In Nigeria, WHO estimates that in 2019 to 2021, 6.2 million children are zero dose; a consequence of the negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic,’’ she said.

She claims that in order to reach these kids, governments and allies will need to step up their efforts.

According to Moeti, WHO held a high-level gathering during the African Union Summit in February 2023 to spur on the necessary commitments.

“At the summit, African Heads of State endorsed a declaration aimed at revamping and scaling up routine immunisation across the continent.

“Also, to implementing urgent measures to address persistent bottlenecks in vaccine and health care delivery systems,’’ she said.

The day, according to the regional director, was a global drive by WHO and partners to restore and enhance routine immunization programs as well as to increase efforts to contact children who missed vaccines.

“The proactiveness of the government and the National Primary Health Care Agency for implementing the Optimized Outreach Sessions, integration of Routine Immunization during COVID-19 vaccination, Measles and Yellow Fever Supplementary Immunization Activities.

“These are key for the reduction in the high burden of zero-dose children in Nigeria and align the theme for the 2023 AVW celebration.

“The plan to introduce malaria vaccine in routine immunisation and Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV) in 2023 and 2024 are commendable.

“This is as it aligns with establishing a life-course platform for immunization for optimum dividend from vaccination,’’ she said.

According to Moeti, the day necessitated the full engagement of all significant stakeholders, including the media, in order to encourage parents to bring their children to the nearby health facility for routine immunization procedures.

She urged the media to raise awareness so that children who missed their immunization appointments could visit the closest medical facility to be evaluated and properly immunized.

According to her, it was crucial to motivate local leaders to take charge of organizing immunization sessions and participating completely in their execution, including keeping track of the community’s vaccination rate.

“We need to encourage traditional and religious leaders with Civil Society Groups to mobilise the community to always demand and access immunisation services.

“The media should let them know that vaccine is safe and effective against vaccine-preventable diseases,’’ she said.

The regional director stated that in order to achieve successful planning, the organization’s support for AVW included encouraging Nigeria’s full involvement in the Regional Working Group for Catch-up.

She added that it would also guarantee resource mobilization for the 20 nations in the region with a high burden of zero dose children.

“WHO since 2015 issued revised immunisation scheduled to support the “Big Catch-up” where children who have missed being vaccinated can be safely vaccinated with appropriate vaccines.

“This is part of over 15 guidelines and strategies issued to countries including Nigeria.

“We are also supporting the NPHCDA engagement with 36 states and the FCT to develop tailored strategies to reach zero dose and unimmunised children.”

She said that in all the states and local government units, WHO had given technical support for the Zero Dose goal and the “Big Catch-up” top priority.

Source: NAN

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