By Sola Ogundipe
TOWARDS averting the deaths of over thousands of children below five years of age from pneumonia and other pneumococcal diseases annually in Nigeria, the Federal government has introduced the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine, PCV, into the National routine immunisation schedule.
The inclusion of the life-saving vaccine into the nation’s EPI schedule follows years of agitation by Nigerians and healthcare professionals at home and abroad. And is ultimately expected to improve the health outcome of children in the country,
No less than 177,000 children under five years of age die from pneumococcal diseases annually in Nigeria. Pneumonia, is an infection of the lungs, needlessly affects millions of people worldwide each year. Pneumonia infections can often be prevented and can usually be treated.
At the formal launch last week in Lokoja, Kogi State, Capt. Idris Wada, Kogi State Governor, described the introduction of the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine as an essential response to reducing pneumonia in Nigeria.
Wada, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Yomi Awoniyi described the newly introduced vaccine as a laudable initiative capable of protecting young children against pneumonia and other diseases. It is another strategy aimed at reaching every child at risk of pneumonia.
Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Ado Muhammad said with full national coverage of the vaccine, over 600,000 childhood deaths will be prevented over the next three years as the government will ensure availability of the “lifesaving” vaccines for the Nigerian child towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4.
In the views of Dr. Rui VAS, Country Director, World Health Organisation, “The introduction of PCV in Nigeria will ultimately improve the Child Health outcome of the country and accelerate the progress of the country towards achieving the MDG4 Goal 4
Commenting, the Director of Disease Control and Immunization NPHCDA, Dr. Emmanuel Abanida said:”We are happy this is happening at this critical time in Nigeria. Globally, pneumonia kills nearly 1 million children younger than five years of age each year. This is greater than the number of deaths from any infectious disease, such as HIV, malaria or tuberculosis. This is the reason why we are more than happy to jump start the administration of this vaccine to ensure our children live healthy life”. Introduction of the new vaccine will initially commence in some states of the Federation, but plans are on to ensure the availability through the public health system at no cost for all children less than one year of age.
Lekan Asuni, Managing Director, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical in Nigeria, manufacturers of the PCV, said the vaccine will bring a remarkable improvement in the reduction of childhood death related to pneumococcal diseases.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, is the arm of Federal Ministry of Health responsible for routine immunisation in Nigeria. Partners who witnessed the event were representatives of The World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN), Clinton Health and Access Initiative among others.