UNICEF harps on polio vaccination benefits

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By Faith Awa Maji, Katsina

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has again harped on the importance of boosting routine immunization uptake for children under five years of age.

“Not only is polio vaccination crucial but all routine vaccinations are also critical to children’s survival,” Officer-in-Charge, UNICEF Field Office Kano, Mr. Michael Banda, said on Thursday in Kano.

He spoke at a Polio Media Dialogue organised for journalists from the UNICEF Polio implementing States of Katsina, Kano and Jigawa.

According to him, “we must all work together to strengthen routine immunization services and ensure that all children under five receive all vaccines, including the polio vaccine.”

He said that continuous uptake of polio vaccines is critical to significantly reducing avoidable mortality in Nigerian children and to keep polio permanently out of Nigeria, ensuring better health and well-being for future generations.

Banda also highlighted the importance of stakeholders to support in mobilising caregivers to make their children available for vaccination and to embrace routine immunization as well as increase its uptake.

He said, “UNICEF and the Kano State government organised this media orientation session to share key information and messages with the media on polio vaccination and to solicit media’s support in mobilising caregivers to bring out their children for vaccination, not just during current vaccination campaign, but to embrace routine immunization and increase its uptake, especially for children under five years of age.

“In 2020, Nigeria achieved a landmark when the country was certified Wild Polio Free by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“The government of Nigeria, UNICEF, WHO and Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners in Nigeria, namely, Rotary International; the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC); Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), traditional and religious leaders, Media and Volunteer Community Mobilisers collaborated to help Nigeria achieve the milestone of Wild Polio Virus free certification.

“During the celebration of that momentous achievement, it was a common understanding that getting certified was not the end of the job but that the milestone was rather an opportunity to urgently rededicate resources to stopping the transmission of all types of polioviruses and strengthening Routine Immunization to sustain the gains.”

“In 2023, there was an increase in the number of cVPD2 cases across the country with 5 States (Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina and Kano) contributing to about 88% (211 of 238) of the total cases in 2023.

“As the data show, in three States of Kano, Jigawa and Katsina, supported by the UNICEF Kano Field Office, we have over 556,750 children who have not received one single dose of vaccination they should have received. These are referred to as zero dose children.

“Such children inexorably are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, including poliomyelitis. This is unacceptable and must be tackled frontally.”