Over 200,000 children in Lagos State have been affected by rumours and conspiracy theories surrounding routine immunisation, according to the chief of health, UNICEF Nigeria, Dr. Eduardo Celades.
Speaking at a media dialogue on COVID-19 and routine immunisation at two primary healthcare centres in Alimosho, Celades stressed that immunisation is the safest and most effective way to protect children against diseases and that it helps control the spread of communicable diseases.
Children who have never been vaccinated are at the highest risk of contracting fatal diseases such as measles, whooping cough and tetanus.
However, false conspiracy theories about immunisation are gaining ground amongst the populace and many of these rumours and negative stories are affecting the vaccination campaign for routine immunization.
Celades noted that uncensored and unmonitored social media content amplifies these conspiracy theories and misinformation and it has become necessary to aggressively dispel these myths and rumours to protect the health and well-being of children in the state.
UNICEF Nigeria and its partners are doing everything possible to ensure that parents are properly educated and sensitised on the need to take their children for immunisation. They work to ensure that no child is deprived of life-saving vaccines through an integrated vaccines campaign that provides all services at the same location. The exercise captures children from 9-59 months vaccinated against all childhood killer diseases, and COVID-19 vaccines are given to persons aged 18 years and above.
Celades urged stakeholders in the vaccination campaign, including royal fathers, development partners, and opinion leaders, to keep sensitising parents on the importance of taking their children for immunisation.
He also called on journalists and influencers to continue to reiterate the interventions introduced to curtail childhood killer diseases in the country.
The Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu PHC Immunisation Officer, Mrs. Ogunsanya Olutosin explained that the Lagos State government, with support from its partners, has recommended that children aged 0-5 years receive routine immunisation to ensure that all children in Lagos are protected from child-killer diseases.
The routine vaccination team visits all households, schools, churches, mosques, recreational grounds, estates, markets, shopping plazas and other places to carry out their exercises.
A senior nursing officer, Mrs. Nneka Okeke noted that the state-integrated vaccines campaign has improved efficiency and effectiveness, especially at the PHC, enabling parents and caregivers to access multiple services at the same time. Routine immunisation remains free at the healthcare facility.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends vaccines from ages zero to five for babies, including vaccines for infectious diseases such as Hepatitis B, polio, haemophilus influenza ‘type b’, pneumococcal (conjugate), rotavirus, measles, meningococcal and mumps, among others. It is crucial to dispel rumours and conspiracy theories about routine immunisation to protect the most vulnerable members of the communities and ensure that millions of lives are saved by extending basic health services such as routine immunisation to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.