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Govt to partner private sector on hepatitis vaccines, says minister

By Guardian Nigeria
26 July 2022   |   4:10 am
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said Nigeria is to begin production of hepatitis vaccines.

Photo; DRVIROBJEV

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said Nigeria is to begin production of hepatitis vaccines.

He observed that the viral hepatitis remains a public health threat, especially Hepatitis B and C, which cause chronic infection with attendant morbidity and mortality.

Ehanire, who stated this in Abuja, at the flag-off of 2022 World Hepatitis Day, with the theme: “Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer To You,” observed that over 20 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with hepatitis B or C due to low awareness of the infection.

He noted that the spread of Hepatitis was similar to HIV, fuelled by unsafe sexual behaviours and injection practices, unsafe blood transfusion, harmful conduct and mother-to-child transmission.
His words: “Nigeria plans to be producing vaccines despite the vaccine policy in Nigeria and we’re already on track, to work with the private sector to start producing routine vaccines which are called the traditional vaccines.

“We are about to be connected by the end of next month with partners to start working on a new MRNA vaccine collaboration. So we shall be receiving those who shall be working with research and development of the new generation of vaccines based on MRNA.

“I am proud to note that Nigeria is one of the first countries to have achieved this in the short time. The core pillars identified for attaining the 2030 target include infant vaccination, prevention of mother-to-child intervention, blood and injection safety, harm reduction, diagnosis and treatment. The National Strategic Framework will be formally presented as part of this briefing.

“As a country committed to elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030, the need to create massive public awareness cannot be overemphasised. Together with this, we need to build capacity of healthcare providers, expand access to diagnosis, treatment and improve community engagement, as well as political leadership at all levels.”

In his remarks, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, pointed out that Nigeria has the highest burden of viral hepatitis with a national hepatitis B (HBV) prevalence rate of 8.1 per cent and a hepatitis C (HCV) prevalence rate put at 1.1 per cent among adult, aged 15 to 64 years.

He said the high cost of treatment and out-of-pocket payment are identified impediments to treatment for people aware of their statuses.

Mulombo said: “In recent years, there has been a growing political commitment at country level, by introducing the hepatitis B birth dose and the pentavalent (DTP-HepB-Hib) vaccine into routine childhood immunisation schedule since 2004. Nigeria is contributing to the global achievement of reduction of hepatitis B infections in children.

“Similarly, since 2005, the country has routinely screened all donated and transfused blood and blood products for HBV and HCV and, has institutionalised injection safety and universal precaution since 2007.”

He further pledged his commitment to continued partnership with Nigeria on its effort to ensure that testing and treatment services are available in the communities and accessible by the people who need them.