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Nigeria: the first-ever vaccine summit

Nigeria’s first-ever vaccine summit has just finished. It’s aim was to mobilise sectors to commit to immunisation of women and children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

The event was well attended by stakeholders from Nigeria and across west Africa was declared open by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.

Other participants included the Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammad Ali Pate, wife of the President of Nigeria, represented by the Minister of Women Affairs, parliamentarians, wives of governors, state commissioners and permanent secretaries, as well as Save the Children’s Advocacy team.

Ambitious aims

The objectives of the summit are mobilising public and private sectors for immunisation, raising political commitment and clearly defining action plans.

The first day of the summit wasn’t that remarkable for me as no clear direction was charted as far as I could see.

A paper presented by one of the state governments seemed to suggest that everything is rosy and that the state is doing so well in immunisation. In reality, the situation is far from this.

A way forward

The tone changed on the second day of the summit.

What is Nigeria not doing right? Why have we recorded 15 cases of wild polio this year alone in spite of billions of naira already spent on polio eradication?

The presentation by Ghana provided answers to the questions and provided Nigeria with some food for thought. For instance, in Ghana no child has died as a result of measles in the past eight years. And the country has not recorded a single case of polio since 2008.

Some of the things being done well in Ghana include:

  • an integrated approach to primary healthcare, including routine immunisation
  • Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) is used to evaluate the performance of each district health service
  • robust legal backing for child health service and community participation.

Will Nigeria learn from Ghana?

The paper presented by renowned Professor of Virology and Vice Chancellor of Redeemers’ University, Oyewale Tomori, was so pungent and apt that he got a standing ovation at the end of the presentation.

No summary will be attempted here because doing so will do injustice to the paper.

No celebration yet

Whatever Nigeria has been able to achieve in immunisation in the past few years, celebration isn’t appropriate because we are where we were supposed to be twenty years ago.

The polio eradication initiative was meant to strengthen routine immunisation when it started in 1998.

It’s noteworthy that polio has not yet been eradicated in Nigeria and routine immunisation remains weak.

Unless primary healthcare is strengthened, polio eradication may remain a mirage.

With India no longer one of the ‘PAIN’ countries endemic for polio (Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria), will Nigeria be the last country in the world to eradicate polio?

As things are, Nigeria is the last in Africa. We need to get act quickly if we are to achieve this.

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