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Nigeria In Desperate Need Of Vaccines To Close Immunisation Gap – WHO

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Immunisation
A child being immunised.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that Nigeria urgently requires immunisation to address the issue of zero doses in children.

The WHO country representative to Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo conveyed this message during the handover ceremony of Penta-valent Vaccines from the Indonesian government to its Nigerian counterpart in Abuja on Friday.

In 2012, the Nigerian government introduced the pentavalent vaccine into its routine immunisation schedule as a means to improve child health. The pentavalent vaccine combines five essential vaccines into a single dose, protecting against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenza type b.

Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19 and response efforts for other infectious diseases, Nigeria’s immunisation programmes have suffered losses since 2020. This disruption resulted in many children missing out on crucial vaccinations, leading to wider gaps in immunisation coverage and creating ideal conditions for disease outbreaks.

Mulombo expressed appreciation for the collaborative effort between Indonesia and Nigeria and acknowledged that previous donation events often showcased imbalanced relationships with donor countries taking the lead. However, he noted that this occasion exemplified a positive shift in the dynamics of global health partnerships. He extended his gratitude to the government of Indonesia for their generous gesture.

Addressing Nigeria’s urgent need for vaccines to close the immunisation gap, Mulombo expressed confidence that Indonesia’s contribution would have a significant impact on accelerating progress. He emphasized the importance of robust support for South-South collaboration, particularly from UN agencies, in rectifying the longstanding injustice in access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Mulombo also commended Indonesia for its role as a special manufacturing hub for polio vaccines, supplying the global community. He expressed pride in Indonesia’s accomplishments and urged conveying appreciation to the national authority for their exceptional gesture. This act sent a strong message about Indonesia’s commitment to resolving the persistent challenges associated with achieving universal immunisation coverage for all children.

The executive director/CEO of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency of Nigeria (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib expressed gratitude for the donation of 1,580,000 doses of Pentavalent vaccines from the Indonesian government. Shuaib assured that the agency was committed to maximising the impact of these vaccines by ensuring equitable distribution and accessibility throughout the country, with special attention given to reaching vulnerable populations, marginalised communities, and remote areas with limited healthcare access.

The UNICEF Nigeria health manager, Dr. Dorothy Ochola-Odongo emphasised the timeliness of the donation, as Nigeria is scaling up its immunisation strategy to reach children who have received zero doses. UNICEF would play a vital role in ensuring that the vaccines are delivered to the last mile across the country.

The Indonesian Ambassador, Dr. Usra Hendra Harahap expressed gratitude for the generous contribution, highlighting the deep bond between Indonesia and Nigeria and their shared commitment to the health and well-being of their citizens. Harahap emphasised that the Pentavalent vaccine, combining five essential vaccines, would contribute to reducing the burden of preventable diseases, especially among vulnerable populations like newborns and young children.

Commenting on the development, a virologist and chairman of the governing board of Biovaccines, Prof. Oyewale Tomori stated that the vaccine donation by the Indonesian government was the outcome of an MOU agreement signed between Biofarma and BVNL in 2019. Tomori highlighted that this donation marked the initial steps for a durable, mutually beneficial collaboration, with Biofarma partnering with BNVL to achieve local vaccine production in Nigeria.

The pentavalent vaccines, produced by Indonesian manufacturer PT. Biofarma, were delivered to Nigeria through the Indonesian Aid Agency. A total of 730,000 doses arrived on May 30, 2023 and an additional 850,000 doses arrived on June 14, 2023, making a total of 1,580,000 doses of vaccines delivered to Nigeria.

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