On Thursday the Lagos State Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), United States Children Fund (UNICEF), Belinda and Bill Gates Foundation and Rotary International among other organizations organized a training for journalists on polio tagged ‘Kick Out Polio Now’, called on stakeholders to work with the government to vaccinate every child.
The four-day campaign, which commences activities for the second round of 2019 Polio Vaccination Campaign, is aimed at halting the spread of polio virus and reducing the number of unimmunised children in the state.
The Permanent Secretary Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Titilayo Goncalves in her opening remark called on stakeholders to work with the government to vaccinate every child.
Dr. Goncalves noted that “there is no gainsaying that child health is a pivotal and critical aspect of public health. It is actually the foundation of a healthy and virile citizenry. Hence the present administration of His Excellency, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is very passionate in ensuring that no child in Lagos suffers disability or die as a result of vaccine preventable diseases” she affirmed.
She said that the 4-day campaign which will be flagged off Friday will commence on the 15th of June and close on the 18th of June, 2019.
She revealed that the virus was detected on water samples taken from three canals in Makoko, Itire and Maracana areas of the state during a routine surveillance exercise carried out on all the water bodies in the state.
The outbreak represents the first poliovirus incident after 12 years of no report in the state and 32 months of non-occurrence in Nigeria.
The Permanent Secretary Lagos State Primary Health Care Board, Dr. Tayo Lawal in his Keynote address noted that “Poliomyelitis (commonly called polio) is a viral disease yet to be eradicated in Nigeria. It is one of the major vaccine-preventable killer diseases of children under the age of five”.
Dr Lawal stressed that “It is a highly contagious faeco-oral disease that can be easily transmitted through poor personal and environmental hygiene. The polio virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water; it multiplies in the intestine from where it can invade the nervous system”.
“To ensure the success of this second leg of this year’s campaign which is being conducted by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Lagos State Ministry of Health (LSMoH), and Lagos State Primary Health Care Board (LSPHCB) with support from health development partners such as WHO, UNICEF, CDC-AFENET and Rotary International, many training workshops had been organized to strengthen the capacity of health workers/vaccinators and social mobilizers across the State, Local Government and Ward levels”.
Dr. Usman Adamu, the Incident Manager, National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), disclosed that Nigeria was on the verge of being declared a poliovirus free nation by the WHO before the current incident.
“This is why we will be here on the field in the next few days to support the supervision of the outbreak response in Lagos” he emphasised.
Dr. Fiona Braka, the WHO representative and Immunization Team Lead, said while addressing stakeholders that “It is our mandate to see a world free of polio and a Nigeria free of polio.
“Nigeria has made remarkable progress in the fight against polio, having recorded 32 months without a wide polio outbreak. However, this outbreak is a different strain and we are responding differently and appropriately to it.
“The vaccination exercise is aimed at administering two drops of polio vaccines to children who are below 5 years of age across 20 local government areas of the state using a house to house approach”.
She said that “High coverage with the vaccine is needed to break the transmission and build immunity against the virus. The vaccine we are going to provide is not the routine vaccine given through the health facilities. So, we do not want any child to miss this opportunity because we have a specific period in which to provide this vaccine.”
Speaking against complacency at this stage in Nigeria’s battle against polio eradication, the Rotary International representative and Vice Chairman, Southwest Rotary (NNPPC), Past District Governor, Abayomi Adewunmi enjoined all stakeholders to rally round to ensure that this current outbreak is interrupted.
According to the Adewunmi, the Rotary International has been on the forefront in the fight against the eradication of polio, spending over 9 billion dollars with a record of over 2.7 billion children successfully immunized since 1985.
The C4D Polio Specialist, UNICEF, Nigeria, Hayon Nam, in her speech enjoined on the media to support the campaign to end poliovirus spread by creating awareness for parents to bring out their children for the vaccination exercise.
Nigeria is among the three countries with poliovirus prevalence in the world. The two other countries are Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2019 alone, two countries have recorded about 29 cases, while Nigeria was on the last lap of being declared poliovirus free.