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WHO urges Nigeria, Africa to wipe out vaccine derived polio virus 

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• We Are On Threshold Of Fostering An Evolution In Health Sector- Ehanire 
Following the eradication of the wild polio virus in the country, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on Nigeria and Africa to work together to defeat Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus (cVDPVs) outbreaks and protect against Wild Polio Virus (WPV) importation through increased vaccination coverage and strengthening disease surveillance.

It also emphasised the need to be vigilant to prevent resurgence of wild polio virus, given that the disease has not been eradicated globally, as 102 wild polio virus cases have been reported in Pakistan and Afghanistan this year.

Speaking at the World Press conference, organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) in Abuja, WHO Country Representative, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulumbo, disclosed that the continent is faced with the continued threat of vaccine derived polio viruses – 16 countries are experiencing circulating vaccine derived polio virus outbreaks.

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Mulumbo noted that the declaration and certification of Nigeria and Africa as wild polio virus-free is a massive public health achievement, made possible by the leadership and commitment of governments, global polio partners, traditional and religious institutions, frontline health workers and vaccinators.

He said: “It is a moment to celebrate the many individuals that worked tirelessly to make this milestone possible. The certification demonstrates what Nigeria and other African countries can accomplish, when goals are backed by strong political commitment.

“Nigeria’s battle with wild polio has been long and complex. I, therefore, commend the Government of Nigeria for the steadfast commitment in leading a massive national effort over the past couple of decades… Nigeria is lauded for several innovations that were devised to address prevailing challenges under the strong coordination of the National Polio Emergency Operations Centre. The lessons and expertise from the Nigeria experience have been useful to address other disease outbreaks and are currently being deployed to strengthen routine immunisation and primary health care.”

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, stated that declaring Nigeria a polio virus-free state is particularly significant for the country, coming at a time it is on the threshold of fostering an evolution in the health sector, built on revelations and opportunities provided by the COVID-19 outbreak and inspired by President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership.

Ehanire noted that along with smallpox, the wild polio virus would be the second successful eradication of a virus disease from Nigeria in the past 40 years.

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“This gives the government the confidence that, if we deploy lessons learnt and use the tools and management structures acquired, we can build and strengthen our Primary Health Care network to sustain the tempo and gains for the broader aspiration for our health sector, which is to wipe out other vaccine preventable diseases.”

He recalled that the journey to end polio in Nigeria, started in 1988, had been long, laborious and costly.

Ehanire noted that the Federal Government, through NPCHDA, has mapped out various polio assets across the country and started deploying them for the purpose of other disease interventions.

He urged state governors to support this effort and begin to implement the transition of the experienced polio human resources for Health, to other areas of the health sector, especially at primary care level.

Executive Secretary of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib said the country was able to eradicate the wild polio virus, due to the great statesmanship shown by President Buhari, when in 2016, he released N9.8b for polio eradication.

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