By Edoamaowo Udeme
As the African Vaccination Week AVW draws to a close in Nigeria, the National Primary Health Care and Development Agency (NPHCDA), has not only set out to ensure that every child is vaccinated but also rewards those who have contributed their quota in creating awareness on vaccinations.
It has also trained 530 agents on Community Health Influencers, Promoters, Services (CHIPS) Programme. The pilot programme which was launched by the Nigerian President Buhari, kicked started last year in only one state, Nasarawa, and hopes to be implemented nationwide by December.
The Executive Director and Chief Executive, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, noted that the 2019 African Vaccination Week singles out and celebrate individuals whose commitment has resulted in the vaccination and safety of the African child from vaccine preventable diseases.
The CHIPS role is to identify pregnant women and children with disease, direct them to primary health facilities or administer first aid where necessary.
So far, almost 4, 000 pregnant women have been visited by CHIPS and there are success stories of their interventions that have saved lives.
Dr Anis Siddique a UNICEF Representative described the CHIPS deployment to Nasarawa State as a huge success “It’s going to be a game changer for Nigeria in curbing maternal mortality and morbidity.
Using the African Vaccination Week stakeholders meeting, NPHCDA presented certificates of recognition to Vaccine Heroes and Ambassadors. It also conferred awards on CHIPS Champions.
it is pertinent to note that Nigeria is one of the countries that is prone to measles outbreak as approximately 2,300 children die every day from preventable health causes that vaccinations can solve.
According to The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEFs recently released report, an estimated 169 million children missed out on the first dose of the measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, or 21.1 million children a year on average, creating a pathway to current global outbreaks.
In Nigeria, a whooping 4.3 million children have missed out on vaccine immunization and the widening pockets of unvaccinated children have created a pathway to the measles outbreaks hitting several countries around the world today.
Sadly, even the rich countries have also let children down by not creating enough awareness on immunization, hence, their children are at risks too.
Topping the list are 10 rich countries with unimmunized children are; United States with 2, 593.000, France 608,000 United Kingdom 527,000 Argentina 438,000 Italy, 435,000 Japan 374, 000 Canada 287,000 Germany 168,000 Australia 138 000 and Chile 136 000.
One is moved to ask, is this pure neglect or poor awareness creation in supposedly developed countries?
In low- and middle-income countries, the situation is critical. In 2017, for example, Nigeria had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose, at nearly 4 million. It was followed by India (2.9 million), Pakistan and Indonesia (1.2 million each), and Ethiopia (1.1 million).
Only two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect children from the disease but due to lack of access, poor health systems, complacency, and in some cases fear or skepticism about vaccines.
The global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85% in 2017, a figure that has remained relatively constant over the last decade despite population growth.
Global coverage for the second dose is much lower, at 67 per cent. The World Health Organization WHO recommends a threshold of 95 % immunization coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity’.
Worldwide coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are even more alarming. Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, 9 have not introduced the second dose, while 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not introduced the necessary second dose in the national vaccination schedule, putting over 17 million infants a year at higher risk of measles during their childhood.
The effort of NPHCDA to reward and commend heroes who have in one way or the other assisted in creating awareness of the dangers of unvaccinated children, will serve as a motivation and increase in hard work for recipients.