Nigeria marks 1 year Polio free!

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Today, 24 July 2015 will mark 12 months since the last reported case of polio in Nigeria and this progress is thanks to the hard work of the Nigerian Government, partners, religious and community leaders, and health workers.

Nigeria’s polio-free period, dating from July 24, 2014, is the longest it has gone without recording a case. The hope is that next month the entire African continent will have gone a full year without a polio infection, with the last case recorded in Somalia on August 11, 2014.

A disease that until the 1950’s crippled thousands of people a year in rich and poor nations alike, the poliomyelitis virus attacks the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection. It often spreads among young children and in areas with poor sanitation – a factor that gives it freedom in areas of conflict and unrest but its spread can be halted,as has been demonstrated, with comprehensive, population-wide vaccination.

As early as 2012, Nigeria with 122 polio virus cases, had reported  the highest number of polio cases globally and the polio epicenter of the world and seemed to be losing the battle against polio. An ‘all-out’ effort was launched, with focused attention, resources and activities on the remaining polio strongholds of the country, particularly the northern states.  Special approaches were developed in the security compromised areas, including a focus on reaching the internally displaced populations.

Nigeria still has two more years before it, along with the whole of Africa, can be certified officially polio-free by WHO, but health experts say its achievement bodes well for wiping the disease out. Polio campaigns will need to continue and reach all children in the country several times a year. While there is polio anywhere in this world, every child is at risk. Surveillance needs to become even more sensitive so that no virus will be missed and routine immunization coverage needs to improve significantly, especially in the northern states.

It is still too early to celebrate as it takes three years after the last case for a country to be declared fully polio-free (as opposed to just non-endemic and we have only recorded one year so far. Once the three year milestone has been confirmed, the country will get off the list of areas where the wild polio virus is endemic—and with it, so will the entire African region.

“Today is an important health milestone for Nigerians. But now we call on all Nigerians – health workers, political traditional, religious and community leaders and communities themselves to help us to sustain the gains made towards polio eradication by 2017, when Nigeria will be certified polio-free by WHO. Let us not leave any stone unturned until we achieve this collective goal for our country. Working together we can do better” says Dr. Ado Muhammad, Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)

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“Conjugate”: New Vaccine to Curb Pneumonia-Related Child Deaths in Nigeria

Vaccines Save Lives

Vaccines Save Lives

Currently, children visiting hospitals to update their immunisation shots will get an extra shot. A new vaccine targeting at least 10 diseases related to pneumonia is set to become part of routine immunisation for children aged one year and below in hopes of averting nearly half a million deaths, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency says.

The Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine, PCV, rolled out in 12 states on Monday December 15 in the first phase of introduction and could avert an additional 486,957 deaths of children over the next six years. It is called “conjugate” because it targets more than one disease.

Children aged one will get at three doses of PCV every four weeks as part of their routine immunisation schedule in health facilities.

Pneumococcal diseases, caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, are leading causes of morbidity and nearly 1.6 million annual global death in adults and children from pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis, experts say.

The bacterium normally lives in the throat and nose of healthy people but has potential to cause infections, which differ by geographic region and age. Children are most affected—one dies every two minutes from pneumonia around the world. One of every 20 children dying from pneumonia is in Nigeria, where 13% of all child deaths—nearly 200,000 each year—are from pneumonia, second only to India’s burden, says World Health Organisation.

The vaccine helps children produce antibodies against pneumococcal bacteria and PCV10—one of two available PCVs Nigeria proposes to use—will protect against 10 common types of pneumococcal diseases.
At least four million doses of PCV are expected in the first phase of rollout in Adamawa, Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo, Kaduna, Katsina, Kogi, Osun, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers and Yobe.

An additional 45.9 million doses of the vaccine are expected from the early quarter of 2015 to 2017. A second phase by April 2015 will cover Ogun, Oyo, Sokoto, Imo, Bayelsa, Cross River, Benue, Taraba and Abia.

A third phase planned for April 2017 will cover remaining states country wide. PCV introduction, earlier planned for last year, was delayed due to global vaccine shortage. It is the next vaccine to be introduced after last year compounding five routine antigens into a pentavalent form (five vaccines in a single shot) and another for rotavirus is planned as soon as next September.

Source: Health Reporters