By Sola Ogundipe
The Federal government does not have enough money to vaccinate all Nigerians against Cerebrospinal Meningitis, CSM.
Disclosing this to newsmen in Ibadan, Oyo state, Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, said even though CSM, a seasonal disorder, is easy to diagnose, the protective vaccine is very expensive.
“The Federal government does not have enough money to vaccinate the whole country. The two vaccines are expensive and what we are trying to do is case detection.
“The conjugate vaccine will protect everybody for 10 years, while the polyvalent vaccine protects for 3 years, but for now both are expensive. The conjugate is about $20 (N7,200) a vial, while the polyvalent is $3 (N1,080) a vial, and that is for just the vaccine, not including the syringes and other consumables, so our best bet is to alert Nigerians that this is the season for meningitis and they should beware.”
On the average about N1.3 trillion is required to immunise the Nigerian population with the conjugate vaccine, and about N200 billion to immunise with the polyvalent vaccine.
“The vaccine is expensive. When a case is detected we have what we call an epidemic threshold then we quickly vaccinate people in the affected Local Governments, that is the best we can do for now. So we are urging that Nigerians be on alert that this is the meningitis season and we need to contain it”
Adewole said all Nigerians would be vaccinated when the government is more prosperous. “We know meningitis is seasonal and this is the season, that is why we are saying Nigerians should be on the lookout for it.
“The terrible outbreak we had in 2017 was because it was on for three months before we got to know about it .He said treating meningitis requires a lumbar puncture and looking at the cerebrospinal fluid.
“When you check and it is milky, then you know there is infection and you can culture it and begin treatment. It is so easy to treat because the causative organism is responsive to antibiotics, but when we do not know that it is meningitis, we could treat malaria for 3-5 days, typhoid for one week then by the time we get to know, it would have spread. And it spreads like wildfire
The way we attend to patients 10 people can surround the infected person and that one patient would infect six or seven persons and it spreads like that.
According to the Minister: “Anywhere there is an outbreak of CSM, the system is weak, Kaduna state had an outbreak but contained it. There was another outbreak in Zamfara and because the system was weak, it killed many people,” he lamented
Nigeria is in the African Meningitis Belt, and control measures used during epidemics, include enhanced epidemiological surveillance, prompt case management, and mass vaccinations in areas involved in an outbreak.
Cerebral Spinal Meningitis (CSM) is most often caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides. Bacterial meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the thin covering of the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms of the disease include stiff neck, high fever, rash, headache, vomiting, and confusion. Even with rapid diagnosis, 5-10 percent of patients typically die within 24-48 hours of symptom onset. Although sometimes fatal, CSM is most often treatable with antibiotics administered upon hospital admission.