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Why Nigeria is not yet polio-free

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Dr. Emmanuel Odu

Dr. Emmanuel Odu

• Inability to vaccinate because of insurgency threatens plan to eradicate virus
• FG reaches 65.42m children with polio vaccine in three months
• Targets another 30m under-five on Nov 12 to 15 in 18 northern states, FCT
• WHO, others develop new approaches to address final hurdles

As part of activities to mark the World Polio Day (WPD), October 24, 2016, the Federal Government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has intensified immunization against the crippling Wild Polio Virus (WPV) even as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) launched an innovation series celebrating the new approaches helping to address the final hurdles standing in the way of a polio free world.

Acting Executive Director NPHCDA, Dr. Emmanuel Odu, however, in a telephone chat with told The Guardian yesterday said inability to vaccinate some children in some parts of local government areas in Borno due to the activities of Boko Haram threatens the plan to eradicate polio. “That is the main challenge that we have. We have the personnel, the vaccines and the cold chain infrastructure but we have not been able to access some children in these areas,” Odu said.

He added: “We are happy that with the help of the Military we are making head way. The Nigerian Arm Forces are providing us with the security to go in and vaccinate. They are also using their medical team to deliver polio vaccines and routine immunization in these areas.”

Odu further explained: “We have had three rounds of immunization now. In the first round, we reached 820,000 children under the age in five local government areas of Borno between August 15 and 18. In the second round held between August 27 in five in five states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba, we reached 5.9 million children. In the third round held in 18 northern states and federal capital territory (FCT) Abuja we reached 30 million children with the polio vaccine.

“The next round is scheduled for November 12 to 15, 2016, in 18 northern states and FCT, and we target to reach 30 million children under the age of five with the vaccine.”

Odu said Nigeria and indeed the world has a lot to celebrate about polio because stakeholders have been able to reduce the number of cases from 350,000 paralysed children in 1988 to 30 cases today, globally, that is 99 per cent success rate, and four cases in Nigeria. “As we celebrate we need to increase awareness and mobilise resources so that it is completely eradicated,” he said

The GPEI in a statement yesterday noted: “This World Polio Day, there is much to celebrate. This year to date has seen fewer children paralysed by polio than ever before and fewer children missed on vaccination campaigns, while surveillance systems have proved their strength by finding polioviruses that had previously slipped under the radar.

“In the past three decades, the GPEI has made incredible progress towards ending this disease forever. But the road to eradication is not an easy one, and hard work and innovations are a crucial part of achieving a polio-free world.”

According to the GPEI, there are several stages that must be completed to eradicate a disease, from detailed preparation, a coordinated attack on the disease, consolidation and control of progress and finally, the endgame: achievement of the goal.

It noted that tactical persistence throughout the initial phases is what has brought the polio eradication programme 99.9 per cent of the way towards finishing the job – but as seen in other eradication and elimination programmes, the final days require flexibility and new approaches to end the virus in its final hiding places.

The GPEI added: “This World Polio Day, we are recognising the innovations that are helping to bring us closer than ever to the end. The polio eradication programme is working in the three remaining polio endemic countries to find new ways to find and stop the virus in the reservoirs where it continues to circulate; is using new combinations of vaccines to optimize immunity, and finding new ways to deliver them.”



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