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Nigeria marks three years of indigenous polio transmission-free certification

By Terhemba Daka and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
26 August 2022   |   3:38 am
World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is a case of near-miss for Nigeria to attain certification of eradication of indigenous transmission of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in 2016.

• Administers over 270 million doses yearly
• Buhari meets vaccine patent holder, welcomes mRNA research, production

World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it is a case of near-miss for Nigeria to attain certification of eradication of indigenous transmission of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in 2016.

According to the global agency, over 270 million vaccines were administered in Nigeria yearly, with the last case of WPV reported in Borno State in 2016.

The organisation added that the nation has achieved 80 per cent reduction in the burden of Circulating Vaccine-derived Poliovirus type 2 (cVPDV2) infections among Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) cases despite the peak of the rainy season.

WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, who disclosed this an event, organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), to mark the three years certification of eradication of indigenous transmission of WPV in the country, yesterday, in Abuja, said the most populous black nation became template for innovative global polio programme, best practices and demonstration of leadership and ownership at national and sub-national levels.

He noted that the feat was achieved through accountability framework, adding that in recognition of this, the organisation’s Regional Director, in April 2022, issued three awards of excellence to Nigeria for implementation of the Auto-visual Acute Flaccid Paralysis Detection and Reporting (AVADAR) that brought communities closer to detection and reporting of AFP case.

Mulombo stated that greater investment and efforts were made to reach vulnerable populations, including nomads, non-complaints, hard-to-reach, riverine communities and those in areas affected by conflicts.

He confirmed that the innovation is being expanded to improve community surveillance system for the country.

Also speaking, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative, Peter Hawkins, advised that Nigeria must sustain the achievement through strengthening of routine immunisation and overall health system.

Hawkins, who was represented by the UNICEF Chief of Health, Dr. Eduardo Celades, warned that complacency is not an option, as polio could come back if “we let our guards down, looking at what happened in Malawi, Mozambique and even in the United Kingom and United States of America.”

In his address, Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, pointed out that in the past three years, there has been a mixed bag of events, as impact of COVID-19 affected the nation’s health system coupled with the emerging security challenges in parts of the country.

He said all of these poses a serious challenge to tackling of re-emerging variants of the disease (cVPV2) that are remnants in the environment promoted by suboptimal environmental sanitation potentially virulent and harmful to children, who have not been enrolled in the routine immunisation system.

The minister added that the Federal Government had directed NPHCDA to put in place the needed response to deal with these viruses within an integrated framework to address other public health challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination in the country.

NPHCDA Executive Director, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said: “It is not yet uhuru because we still have Circulating Polio Virus in communities across the country, and this can also cause paralysis. The North East was the final frontier of polio eradication. We will not go to sleep.”

He pledged that the country would strengthen immunisation to prevent importation of WPV into the country.
BESIDES, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, welcomed the exploratory interactions between Nigerian biomedical scientists, officials of the Federal Ministry of Health and BioNTech Company to support the production of messenger RNA vaccines in the country.

During the meeting, which held in Abuja the President had audience with Holm Keller, Executive Chairman of KENUP Foundation and representative of the CEO of BioNTech, the mRNA vaccine patent holder, in Africa.

He expressed confidence that the discussions would be lead to collaborations at different levels, from clinical trials to research and production of new vaccines in Nigeria.

Recounting the vast inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccines at the peak of the pandemic, Buhari said Nigeria and many middle-income countries now appreciate the need for global decentralisation and diversification of manufacturing capacity of items critical for public health security.

He highlighted the many investment opportunities and potentials in the Nigeria, urging the foundation and other prospective investors to pay ‘”special attention’” to Africa’s most populous country.

Minister of Health, Dr. Ehanire, said confirmed the President’s “passion for public health security. He said his disposition to healthcare informed the reception of the team to explore possibilities of collaboration in manufacturing of new vaccines.
Contributing, Keller described his organisation as a public-benefit foundation dedicated to innovation in public health.

The executive chairman said he was thrilled to learn of the great work Buhari and his administration had done in the country, stating: “The aim of our mission is to establish research partnerships, which would benefit Nigeria and Africa.

“We want to contribute to vaccine equity through manufacturing scheme suitable to the country. We are working on malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, monkeypox and other vaccines to be manufactured in Africa.”

Keller added that there was also the plan to find African personalized treatment for cancer, which is only available to the richest of the rich in some parts of the world.

“We want to change that, and are working on therapeutic vaccines that can stop the growth of tumors. We want it to be available globally, and not just in wealthy countries. We want to explore opportunities in this domain, and support your good work.”