The United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that no Nigerian Child should be allowed to die from vaccine preventable diseases especially now that the country is faced with COVID-19 pandemic.
The call came as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of alarming decline in global vaccine coverage due to a COVID-19 pandemic that is disrupting the delivery and uptake of immunization services around the world.
According to UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, ” This is a critical moment for Nigeria’s children. We can either seize it or condemn millions of children to preventable illness or even death, whererein children can either be protected from a host of preventable diseases or face an uncertain future and possibly dire health prospects.
Hawkins puts the global vaccination coverage rate with the third dose of the vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP3) has plateaued at 85 per cent since 2010. In Nigeria, numbers show that routine immunizations in the first 6 months of 2020 have dropped compared to the same period in 2019, indicating a deterioration in important routine vaccination coverage, due to COVID-19.
““No Nigerian child should die from a preventable disease that can be easily prevented with an affordable vaccine that is readily available within our borders. Let us not let COVID-19 distract us from the work we still need to do to ensure that EVERY Nigerian children receives their full routine immunizations,” said Peter Hawkins.
“This is a critical moment for Nigeria’s children. We can either seize it – or condemn millions of children to preventable illness or even death,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria.
Executive Director of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib on his part noted that Nigeria is in a strong position as there availability of a full stock of routine immunization vaccines and can use the strong community outreach programmes across the country, not only to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but to also ensure children receive vaccinations for diseases we can easily prevent.
Shuaib emphasized that Nigeria must seize the opportunity created by the global disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic that are threatening to reverse hard-won progress in immunization rates worldwide, according to new data by WHO and UNICEF.
“At stake is critical progress made over the last decades in reaching more children and adolescents with a wider range of vaccines, including in Nigeria. However, despite this progress, Nigeria still contributes 30 percent of the global number of unimmunized children between the ages of 0 and 5.
“We have a long way to go to ensure greater protection for children against disease – and vaccination rates, including against the highly contagious and deadly measles virus, are in danger of lapsing,” said Peter Hawkins. “Let’s seize this moment to reimagine how we bring vaccinations to children, leveraging on existing community structures for COVID-19 prevention, to improve vaccination rates too – and ensure a brighter and healthier future for Nigeria’s children explained Shuaib
Speaking in the disruption caused by Covid-19, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, said, due to COVID-19 pandemic, at least 30 measles vaccination campaigns around the world were or are at risk of being cancelled, which could result in further outbreaks in 2020 and beyond.
According to him, “We already knew the challenge of vaccinating every child was daunting, and now we know that COVID-19 has made a challenging situation even worse.
“We must halt a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and reinforce vaccination services before children’s lives are threatened by other outbreaks. We cannot trade one health crisis for another.”
Hawkins further said, ” Giving stagnating global coverage levels, the likelihood that a child born today will be fully vaccinated with all the globally recommended vaccines by the time she will be 5 years is less than 20 per cent.
“The analysis which showed that in 2019, nearly 14 million children did not receive any of the life-saving vaccines such as measles, diphtheria, tetanus or pertussis. Two-thirds of these children are concentrated in ten countries:Nigeria, India, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Philippines, Ethiopia, Brazil, Indonesia, Angola and Mexico.
“Immunization in Nigeria must be reimagined and built back better, despite the pandemic. And the only way through that which it can be attained is by building the confidence of caregivers in accessing immunization services, reaching out to people where they are to ensure they understand the importance of these vaccinations for their children’s lives, and protecting healthcare workers so that they can deliver these services safely and effectively.”
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