By Sola Ogundipe
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has been called upon to use his good office to ensure the survival of Nigerian children by operationalising the proposed comprehensive routine child immunisation in the country.
Making the call in Lagos last week during a medical forum on pneumococcal awareness organised by the Paediatrics Association of Nigeria (PAN) in collaboration with Pfizer International, an experienced paediatrician and endocrinologist, Dr. Dorothy Esangbedo said there is urgent need for routine immunisation to take off in the country without delay in order to prevent the high death toll of Nigerian children from pneumonia and other invasive pneumococcal disorders.
Esangbedo, who is President of the Paediatrics Association of Nigeria observed that the main causes of childhood pneumonia and associated vaccine preventable illnesses are pneumococcal bacteria and haemophilus influenza type B bacteria (Hib) which are currently not on the immunisation schedule of the country.
According to her: “There There is urgent need to operationalise the proposed comprehensive routine immunisation in the country which includes the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV13), haemophilus influenza type B vaccine and rota virus vaccine.
“The inclusion of these vaccines with other vaccines as pentavalent vaccine will be a simple and effective intervention to reduce the 35 percent of deaths caused by vaccine preventable diseases of pneumonia and gastroenteritis.”
Noting that immunization is a worthwhile investment to the future of the country, she stated: “It is for this reason that on behalf of the children of this country, PAN requests the Federal government to declare a worthy gift for Nigerian children on thios 50th anniversary of the nation’s 50th independence by announcing the take-okk of the routine immunization schedule under a policy environment that protects the fund for childhood immunisation from political changes in the country. This would really add greater excitement to our Golden Jubilee celebration,” she asserted.
Also speaking, Chairman of the Pneumococcal Disease Expert Panel, Prof. Geoffrey Onyemelukwe sated that need to address the problem of invasive pneumococcal disoders through adoption of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine into the national immunisation programme could not be taken lightly.
“Eliminating pneumonia is critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals’ target of reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015. But as this is a feat that can be achieved only if the vaccines are integrated into the nation’s routine immunisation schedule. We n cannot afford to delay implementation of this proposed routine immunisation to facilitate the long-term prevention of childhood pneumonia and pneumococcus-related deaths in the country.
In 2008, according to the WHO, 177,000 children aged below five years died from pneumonia and related disorders.