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Govt targets 50m children in five-day nationwide campaign

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Nigeria is making progress in a five-day National Immunization Days (NIDs) using trivalent oral polio vaccine (OPV). The campaign, which began on Saturday March 14, 2015, is targeted to reach an estimated 50 million children aged zero to five years.

Also, the Horn of Africa Technical Advisory Group (TAG) has identified 200,000 children who remain unreached in south central Somalia, and insecurity in some areas of Nigeria, which they said pose a threat to the cautious optimism that is building across the African continent with over six months since the most recent case.

If everything goes well, Nigeria is going to celebrate for the first time eight months without any polio case on March 24, 2015, and if the country did not record any case by July 24, 2015 it would be that she has successfully interrupted the transmission of the virus and shall be certified polio free by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The TAG set up by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) and the Expert Review Committees (ERCs) of polio endemic countries including Nigeria, Pakistan and Afganistan said that the immunity gaps identified underscore how important it is to reach every last child if transmission is to be stopped for good.

The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Executive Director National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Gana Muhammad, told The Guardian: “We are targeting over 50 million using OPV. This is a sustained effort to ensure that we interrupt the transmission of the (Wild Polio Virus).

“The vaccination started on Saturday and it is ongoing nationwide including in high risk and security risk states of Yobe and Borno. We are not deterred by the security situation, which is obviously getting better.

“So far the programme has been successful and the vaccinators have been motivated and mobilized.

“If everything goes well, we going to celebrate for the first time eight months without any polio case in March 24. If we do not record any case by July 24, 2015 it would be that we have successfully interrupted the transmission of the virus and shall be certified polio free by WHO.”

According to the latest edition of Weekly Polio Update published by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), no new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) cases were reported in the past week. Nigeria’s total WPV1 case count for 2014 remains 6, compared to 53 in 2013. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on 24 July in Sumaila Local Government Area (LGA), southern Kano state.

“No new type 2 circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) cases were reported this week. The most recent case had onset of paralysis on 16 November in Barde Local Governmental Area of Yobe state. The total number of cVDPV2 cases for 2014 in Nigeria remains 30.”

Indeed, according to the GPEI, “2014 was a significant year for global polio eradication. While we faced challenges such as the rising number of cases in Pakistan and the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, which stopped polio vaccinations, progress in the response in the Middle East, Horn of Africa and central Africa lessened the threat posed to children in outbreak countries.

“This set the stage for 2015 to be a significant year for the programme. As a result, several major global and regional bodies met in the first quarter of this year to examine the situation in depth and to develop strategies to finish the job once and for all.”

The need for global solidarity in the fight against polio was emphasised both at the meeting of the World Health Organization’s Executive Board in January and through additional Temporary Recommendations made at the fourth meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR).

In addition to the extension of the recommendations that have been in place since May to reduce the risk of international spread of the virus, countries currently exporting poliovirus were advised to coordinate with neighbouring countries to strengthen surveillance and to ensure that refugees, travellers and cross border populations, who are often left vulnerable, are reached with vaccines.

The Executive Board expressed alarm at the high levels of polio transmission in Pakistan, the home of 85 per cent of cases globally in 2014, and underlined the importance of international support in helping to address the challenges the country faces in ending this threat to children everywhere.

The Director General of WHO addressed Pakistan to emphasise the global importance of this, stating: “Your country will be the one that delivers a polio-free world. It will be a historic achievement.”

In addition to this global focus, the regions and countries most vulnerable to polio have been meeting to discuss steps forward. In January, the ERC met in Nigeria and a Polio Outbreak Response Meeting took place in Beirut to track progress in the Middle East. The following month, a Technical Consultation took place in Pakistan to measure progress along the low transmission season plan, and the TAG met in Nairobi.

Common across the findings of these objective reviews was the need to strengthen capacity to reach missed children to remove the potential breeding ground of the virus. In Pakistan and the Middle East, the importance of reaching mobile populations was identified as a particular challenge.

A statement from GPEI reads: “The Horn of Africa TAG identified 200,000 children who remain unreached in south central Somalia, and insecurity in some areas of Nigeria pose a threat to the cautious optimism that is building across the African continent with over six months since the most recent case. The immunity gaps identified by each of these reviews underscore how important it is to reach every last child if transmission is to be stopped for good.

“This year provides a unique window of opportunity for countries to work together to increase levels of immunity against polio. There is no technical reason why 2015 should not be the year that polio transmission is ended for good, so long as every child is immunized and surveillance systems are strong enough to identify transmission wherever it remains. The Executive Board called for a Resolution to be brought to the World Health Assembly in May to reinforce global commitment to seeing the threat of polio removed from the world.”



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