Enugu State targets 800,000 children for immunisation

Cyril Okonkwo, Enugu

Over 800, 000 children aged zero to five would be given oral polio vaccines in Enugu State, South East Nigeria, as the state joins the rest of Nigeria  in the second round of the 2015 Immunization Plus Days, which began nationwide on Saturday.

Children below the age of five (the targeted age in the exercise) constitute about 20% of the population of Enugu State projected to be about four million.

During the four-day nation-wide exercise, oral polio vaccines will be given to children as health workers go from house to house, churches, mosques and play grounds for the immunisation of children in the 17 local government areas of Enugu State.

All health facilities in the state have also been designated as immunisation points for effective coverage of the state.

Sustaining WHO status
In an interview with Voice of Nigeria in Enugu, the Director of Public Health, Enugu State Ministry of Health,  Dr Okechukwu Ossai, said the exercise was part of strategies to sustain Nigeria’s status following the delisting of the country by the World Health Organisation, WHO, from polio-endemic countries after it recorded its last case of polio in July 2014.

“Since July 21, 2014, we have not recorded any case of polio in Nigeria. As a result of that, Nigeria has been delisted from among polio-endemic countries of the world,” Dr Ossai explained, pointing out that Nigeria was delisted after holding on for one year of polio-free status.

According to Ossai, Nigeria is working towards getting WHO certification, which requires three years from the date of the last recorded polio case.

He expressed optimism that Nigeria would get certified by WHO, saying: “If we are able to sustain our surveillance and continue to maintain our present status for three years, the WHO would certify Nigeria as polio-free and that would be a landmark.”

Dr Ossai based his hope on the political will shown by government at all levels as well as the commitment of Nigerian citizens and partners.
Vaccine Transition

Dr. Ossai said this year might be the last time that children in Nigeria would be given the oral polio immunisation before the commencement of injectable vaccines.

He said: “This may be the last before we transit to injectable or inactivated polio immunization, where, instead of this four times that children receive oral polio vaccines in a year, they receive one or two injectable polio vaccines in a year to protect them.

He explained that the injectable polio vaccines would not be given through house-to-house visits by health workers, but would only be given at health centres.

According to Dr Ossai, the vaccines required for the ongoing Second Round of the 2016 Immunisation Plus Days are available and have been distributed to all the 17 local government areas in Enugu State.