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Ondo’s fight against polio

Kemi Olatunde

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Nigeria has made tremendous strides towards eliminating polio and has been free of wild polio virus (WPV) for a while. However, sustained focus towards getting rid of all types of

polio virus by improving population immunity and enhancing disease surveillance will be needed to

ensure it sustains the polio-free status.

Nigeria was declared free of wild polio in 2020, but the transmission of the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVPV2) strain of the paralysing disease remains a concern in the country. Nigeria is the only country endemic for both Wild Polio Virus 1 and 3 as well as circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus type 2.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under five years of age. In August 2020, Nigeria was declared free of the wild poliovirus by the WHO and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

Nigeria’s battle with poliomyelitis has been a huge success! There has been no recorded case of wild polio virus since 2016.

The success recorded in Nigeria drew members of the US congressional staff to the country, led by Brian Massa, Director of Global Health Advocacy, Immunization and Global Health Security at the United Nations Foundation, for an overview of UNICEF and WHO’s support to Nigeria’s polio eradication, immunization, and COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Nigeria deployed various strategies and implemented many programmes in the efforts to eradicate polio under the National Polio Eradication programme, with States creating and adapting theirs to suit their various contexts including Ondo State which is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the status quo remains.

In September, wife of the Ondo State Governor, Arabinrin Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu flagged off the September 2023 Round of National Immunisation Plus Days (NIPDS) as it has always been done in the state.

Speaking at the event which took place in Akure, she said the exercise which commences on Saturday 30, 2023 aim to engender a wider coverage of the Oral Polio Vaccination both in the state and Nigeria at large.

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Represented by the Women Affairs Commissioner, Dr (Mrs) Julianah Osadahun, she said that NIPDS has achieved significant progress in the Oral Polio Vaccine coverage and other routine immunisation with 100 percent in December, 2022 and January, 2023 Outbreak Response (OBR) and attributed it to the commitment and dedication of health workers in the state.

While commending the state Governor Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu for the provision of enabling environment and resources for the successful implementation of previous rounds of NIPDS in the state, she noted that the state has been ranked among the best performing states in routine immunisation in Nigeria.

While assuring of her support in ensuring that all eligible under five children are fully vaccinated, she charged stakeholders on the need to step up intensive mobilisation activities for the exercise stating that “the failure of one child to take the Oral Polio vaccine is a collective failure of us all and a looming danger for the herd immunity we desire to keep our public health space in Ondo State.”

In his welcome address, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Banji Awolowo Ajaka described NIPDS as a campaign aimed at strengthening the immunisation of under five children against polio disease.

He explained that although Nigeria has been certified Polio free, it is important to continue routine and supplemental Immunisation activities to combat other circulating variants which according to him are mostly spread environmentally.

He said that government has invested massively in the state health sector noting that the efforts are being recognised as attested to by the PHC Leadership Challenge Award received by the state in the South West, which according to him is a testament to the hardwork, commitment and dedication of government.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ondo State Primary Health Care Development Agency (OSPHCDA), Dr. Francis Akanbiemu, he commended key players in the immunisation and PHC activities in the state and called on all to ensure that residents are sensitised within the communities in the state.

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 He said; ” You must all ensure you mention the NIPDS to mothers and caregivers of children between 0-59 months in your environment. Let them know that health workers will move around house, schools, markets, churches and mosques to vaccinate our children with Oral Polio vaccine drops and it is their duty to present their children and ward for vaccination.”

Speaking on behalf of partners in the state, State Coordinator, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Sunday Dele Davies stated that immunisation is important to prevent childhood diseases which according to him can lead to death.

He pledged the support of partners in ensuring success in the exercise.

Prior to the Flagg off, stakeholders were called upon to ensure the successful implementation of the National Immunisation Plus Days (NIPDs)

On that note, parents were to present children vaccination card to enable proper vaccination update.

Permanent Secretary, Ondo State Primary Health Care Development Agency (OSPHCDA), Dr. Francis Akanbiemu spoke during a state Mobilisation committee meeting on NIPDs in Akure.

While expressing appreciation to participants for their support for PHC activities in the state, he described vaccination as the legal right of a child stating that it is important that children are well vaccinated to encourage healthy living.

He described anyone who prevent vaccination of children as an antagonist calling on all private primary schools to cooperate with the Agency for proper vaccination in the state.

He stressed the need for participants to be adequately informed so as to provide accurate answer to residents when they are presented with questions.

In his goodwill message, State Coordinator, World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Dele Davies Sunday who stated that it is crucial for the organization to ensure that large number of children live beyond the age of five stressed the importance of immunisation.

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While reiterating WHO’s commitment towards supporting the state on PHC activities explained that Vitamin A helps children’s bowel in reducing frequent defecation adding that it is also good for the eye.

He called increased awareness in religious places, play groups, Community based organization and markets among others in order to achieve success.

State Mobilisation Officer, Mrs Yetunde Akinyosoye while stating that one of the objectives of the meeting to help participants identify key influencers within their communities, wards, Local Government Areas and State, stressed the need for them to debunk untrue information relating to immunisation.

According to her, a voice note on the Human Papillomavirus ( HPV) which has been in circulation isn’t true stating that the state is yet to begin the vaccination.

She called on all to play their role in ensuring a healthier upcoming generation adding that they should reach residents through the various platforms before the commencement of the programme.

State Immunisation Officer, Mrs Comfort Olagundoye while speaking on the strategy to use for the exercise said that uniformed health workers will move from house to house to vaccinate children between 0 and 5 years for oral polio adding that they will also give Vitamin A to children between 6months and 5years.

Giving details of the Vitamin A supplement, she said; “The Vitamin A has two colours; blue and red. The blue will be received by children between 6months and 12months while the red colour is for those between 12months and 59months.”

According to her, there will also be a special team who will visit religious places, parties, parks etc adding that there are also fixed posts (health facilities) where all Routine Immunisation(RI) are available including COVID-19 which is for 18 years and above.

She called on residents to make themselves available for the COVID-19 vaccination stating that millions of residents of the state are yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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