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NIMR makes case for free hepatitis vaccines nationwide




*20 million at risk of related sickness, deaths 

NIGERIAN Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos, has call for the inclusion of Hepatitis-B prevention vaccines among a list of vaccines current given on National Immunization Days in the country.

The gestures, according to the research institute, are to improved rates of vaccination against the deadly Hepatitis B disease, and prevent related sicknesses and deaths in the country.

Hepatitis B, the eighth leading cause of death in the world, is a silent killer disease that kills many often without prior symptoms.

Director General (DG) of NIMR, Prof. Innocent Ujah, said it was disturbing that many Nigerians that could have been helped with vaccination were still dying due to the preventable disease.

Ujah noted that the challenge, besides not getting vaccinated, is that many Nigerians don’t get screened for the disease and only know that they are carriers of the virus when symptoms have started to emerge and difficult to save their lives.

Viral Hepatitis is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and a major public health problem, particularly is socially and economically deprived population — usually women and children.

Speaking at an event to commemorate the World Hepatitis Day (WHD) at NIMR, Ujah noted about one in every 12 Nigerians (20million) are infected with hepatitis B and C, adding that the population are at the risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver, which may progress to liver cancer and eventual death of the individual.

He said Hepatitis B virus, though endemic in the country, had continued to be a silent killer and still remarkably neglected. In line with the opportunity to canvass for attitudinal change on WHDs, the DG said that the medical research institute had shown the way with improving awareness on the disease and providing avenue for a handful of Nigerians to get free screening and get vaccinated.

He added that more Nigerians would heave a sigh of relieve, if the government, both at the Federal and State levels would to declare the vaccines free for all, especially those that cannot afford it.

A dose of the vaccine ranges between N1200 to N2000, depending on the facility visited. An individual would require four doses over time, to be over 90 per cent immune from Hepatitis B for the next 20 years.

Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist at Healthgate Consult Lagos, Emmanuel Anommeze, said it was a shame that Nigeria is still considering how to go about hepatitis when the solution (vaccine) had been found since 1983.

Anommeze observed that in Taiwan where the vaccine was declared free, the prevalence of liver cancer had dropped, which is a testimony that the vaccines are working.

While he appealed to Nigerians to take on the responsibility of self-protection against the disease, he added that the citizenry should begin to known their status to get timely medical help.

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