Nigeria Engages Gavi For Cholera Vaccine Amid Global Shortage

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The Federal Government has initiated discussions with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) to secure additional cholera vaccines amid a global shortage.

The director-general of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr. Jide Idris confirmed this in an interview with Science Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.

Science Nigeria reports that Nigeria is grappling with a cholera outbreak amidst a global shortage of vaccines. This situation highlights the complex challenges faced by nations in managing public health crises, especially in resource-limited settings.

Recognising the urgent need for vaccines, the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Pate entered into discussions with Gavi. “Gavi, a global health partnership, plays a pivotal role in improving access to vaccines in low-income countries,” Idris explained. “Through these negotiations, Nigeria aims to secure an emergency supply of cholera vaccines to curb the outbreak.”

Currently, cholera vaccines are not stocked in public facilities, though they are available in limited quantities in the private sector. Idris emphasised that vaccines alone are not the only preventative measures. “We must also ensure environmental cleanliness and proper hand hygiene,” he said.

Globally, the demand for cholera vaccines has surged, leading to a severe shortage. “This limited supply has strained efforts to control outbreaks in endemic regions, including Nigeria,” Idris noted. Cholera, an acute diarrheal disease caused by ingesting contaminated water or food, remains a persistent health threat in Nigeria. The outbreak has significantly impacted several states, leading to numerous deaths and overwhelming healthcare facilities. Poor sanitation, inadequate clean water supply, and limited healthcare infrastructure have exacerbated the spread of the disease.

In response to the crisis, the NCDC has intensified its public health campaigns, emphasising hygiene practices and the importance of clean water. However, these measures alone are insufficient without adequate vaccination coverage. “The shortage of vaccines has hampered mass immunisation campaigns, crucial for preventing the spread of cholera,” Idris said.

The situation in Nigeria underscores broader issues of global health equity and preparedness. It highlights the necessity for increased investment in vaccine production and distribution infrastructure. Idris called for stronger international collaboration to ensure that life-saving vaccines reach the most vulnerable populations promptly.

In response to the escalating cholera outbreak in 31 states of the Federation, the NCDC has activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate national efforts to combat the disease. “The cholera outbreak is characterised by a case fatality rate of 3.5 per cent, significantly higher than the national expected average of one per cent, underscoring the severity of the situation,” Idris said.

Lagos accounted for the highest number of deaths with 29, followed by Rivers with eight, Abia and Delta with four each, Katsina with three, Bayelsa with two and Kano, Nasarawa and Cross River with one each. “This alarming trend highlights the urgent need for a coordinated response to prevent further escalation of the crisis,” Idris emphasised. Sixteen states accounted for 90 per cent of the confirmed cases, with Lagos being the epicenter of the outbreak. Lagos State, having the highest number of cases, has received significant focus, with ongoing support and resources directed to manage the outbreak effectively.

The affected states include Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, the FCT, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Zamfara.

A dynamic risk assessment conducted last month by experts from various fields, including health, environment, agriculture, and water resources, underscored the multifaceted nature of cholera prevention and control. “An integrated approach is necessary to address the complex factors contributing to the spread of cholera. Efforts should focus on improving water and sanitation infrastructure, promoting hygiene practices, and ensuring access to clean drinking water and safe food,” Idris said. Additionally, strengthening surveillance systems, enhancing healthcare delivery, and mobilising community engagement are critical steps in managing and mitigating the outbreak.

As Nigeria continues to navigate this challenging period, Idris emphasised that the resilience and collective action of all stakeholders would be crucial in overcoming this epidemic and safeguarding the health and well-being of communities.

Since January 2023, there have been 82 million doses requested from 15 countries, almost double the 46 million doses produced over the same period. The global stockpile was depleted until early March 2024 and currently has 3.2 million doses, far short of the five-dose goal.

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