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Pharmacists blame FG on panic measures over meningitis epidemic control, proffer solutions

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PHOTO: Doctors Without Borders

• Want govt to permit community pharmacists to conduct routine immunisation against all killer childhood diseases
• Seek liberalisation on importation of essential medicines, vaccines without local capacity to produce

Government at all levels have continued to receive criticism over the handling of the ongoing Cerebrospinal Meningitis (CSM) that has affected more than 2000 persons and killed over 328 across no fewer than 16 states.

Pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) yesterday said a situation where the country resort to emergency import of vaccines every year she records epidemics is certainly not good enough as it remains a panic measure at best.

President PSN, Ahmed I. Yakasai, told journalists that government must liberalise the importation of essential medicines and vaccines, which the local pharmaceutical industry has not shown proven capacity to produce.

Yakasai said moving forward as a fortified health system, Nigeria must change its approach to the totality of immunisation procedures by opening its borders of restrictions to permit community pharmacists to conduct routine immunisation against all killer childhood diseases in public interest.

Yakasai explained: “Today in terms of proposing a viable ameliorating balm experientially, we call on the Federal Government to adopt routine immunisation as the panacea to the tragedy meningitis continues to epitomise in our borders.

“Our observation is that the avoidable fatalities in the vicious cycle of meningitis fatality over the years are fallouts of wretched medicine management and protocols especially in the area of immunization. Globally pharmacists as medicine experts are trained to handle, advice and deal with all categories of medicines and biological preparations.

“Given the scenario of a well structured and lawfully constituted regulatory agencies involved in drug distribution especially National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Pharmacy Council of Nigeria (PCN), the PSN submits that a more robust collaboration of efforts will ensure the availability, affordability of safe and efficacious medicines and vaccines in our nation to redress the anxiety and concerns the perennial meningitis epidemics continues to inflict on our stressed health system.”

He said the approach for prevention and control of meningococcal epidemics based on early detection followed by massive vaccination of the vulnerable population with vaccines though has shown some effectiveness especially in young people but this is still perceived as a model for product development partnership in resource limited settings. “This is the norm in Nigeria and most African nations.”

The PSN President appealled to the Federal Government to follow the dictates and spirit of the Society’s position paper on the implementation of the recent 20 per cent Import Adjustment Tax (IAT).

Yakasai said a 20 per cent IAT on medicines and vaccines which are life saving only exposes consumers of medicines to avoidable death sentence. “Our resolve as responsible health providers who embrace a connectivity of empathy seriously forbids jostling along this less than noble route,” he said.

Yakasai said the PSN apart from canvassing routine immunisation by community pharmacists and other competent health workers wishes to advice the general public to keep faith with the reflected tips to prevent meningitis.

The tips are:
*Eat only properly and well-cooked meals. Meat, fish and poultry products must be cooked at high temperature to completely eliminate bacteria. A balanced diet, adequate rest and sleep in addition to moderate exercise will ultimately help to maintain a strong immune system.
*Multivitamin supplements with doses of vitamin A, C, E and D are helpful in maintaining good health. They also reduce the chances of inflammation around the brain and spinal cord.
*Hand washing after exposure to dirt or toilets remains essential. Those who harbour or play with pets need to maintain high sanitary conditions.
*Health workers who manage meningitis patients may consider wearing facemasks to protect themselves especially if their patients are coughing or sneezing.
*Environmental sanitation is germane to maintain germ free enclave.



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