BY PATIENCE IVIE IHEJIRIKA, Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for improved routine immunisation to avert a resurgence of the wild poliovirus (WPV) and to protect Nigerian children from vaccine preventable diseases.
UNICEF’s Communication for Development (C4D) specialist, Mrs Elizabeth Onitolo, gave the caution at a media dialogue on routine immunisation and COVID-19 vaccination organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, in Yola, Adamwa state.
Nigeria was declared wild poliovirus-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2020 after the country celebrated three years without any case of WPV in 2019.
UNICEF has, however, cautioned that the certification does not mean that the risks are over, stressing that the success recorded was still fragile due to low immunisation coverage.
The children’s rights organisation expressed worry that parents are still not compliant while many children have not been vaccinated, stressing the need for continuous information, especially at the community, on the importance of completing routine immunisation.
She emphasized the need to mobilise and motivate the people especially at the community level to accept vaccines and ensure that they practice environmental sanitation and personal hygiene.
“Environmental sanitation and personal hygiene practice is still very low in the communities, providing a possible grounds for outbreaks.
“Polio virus transmits from person to person or from waste water to person. Children are especially vulnerable because their immune system is weak.”
Onitolo also said that there was need for the media to target mobilisation efforts to leaders, including head of households because of their significant role in influencing routine immunisation coverage.
“We need to act now to protect our children from getting the polio virus. We need to maintain herd community. This means every child must complete routine immunisation so that the virus will not have a window to re-enter our communities,” she urged.