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Getting childhood vaccination back on track

IN recent times, Nigeria has made appreciable improvement in reducing deaths of under 5-year-old children. Between 2011 and 2016, deaths of children below 5 years of age dropped from 158 per 1000 births to 120 per 1000 births. During the same period in question, however, the coverage of the main vaccines offered through routine immunisation declined appreciably nationwide.

Currently, according to UNICEF, 4.3 million children in Nigeria still miss out on vaccinations every year. Data from the recent Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, MICS conducted by the Federal Government in 2016/17 shows that only one in four children in the country receives all the recommended vaccines at the appropriate time.

The latest Multi Indicator Cluster Survey/National Immunisation Coverage Survey, MICS/NICS, also shows that Nigeria is still far behind the Global Vaccine Action Plan, GVAP of achieving 90 per cent vaccinations of children between 12 and 23 months old.

Full immunisation across the 36 states of the federation remains lower than the targeted national average of 80 per cent. From the 2016/17 MICS, immunisation coverage for pentavalent vaccines in all the states varies dramatically from 80 per cent in Lagos to 3 per cent in Sokoto and is still below the recommended global goal of 90 per cent in all states of the federation.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, also observes that the number of children that miss out on their first measles vaccine dose is highest in Nigeria.

Over the years, problems of rejection, stock-outs, inability to tackle infrastructural decay, corruption, non-implementation of policies and insensitivity among health workers, have remained consistent barriers to delivering vaccination communication, preventing millions of children from accessing quality vaccination both in the rural and urban areas.

Challenges in the vaccine supply chain system continue to make efforts aimed at achieving universal routine immunisation ineffective, inefficient, fragmented and wasteful.

All these are unacceptable because ensuring the protection of the lives of Nigerian children is a task that must be done. Interruption of interventions to promote uptake of childhood vaccination due to health system factors such as funding constraints, inadequate infrastructure/equipment, among others, must be tackled and resolved once and for all.

Existing state- and donor-driven supply chain interventions are due for revamping and require the injection of bold and innovative approaches. They also demand complementary, broad-based partnerships to disrupt the persistent cycle of poor public health supply chain performance.

The purpose of the National Strategic Plan for Routine Immunisation needs to be revisited and appropriately implemented. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, must achieve its mandate of procuring and distributing potent vaccines to all states and LGAs as well as providing vaccines and technical support for effective implementation of the Primary Health Care agenda.



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