Exclusive breastfeeding remains best immunity to children – Expert

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The Director of Disease Control and Immunisation, Dr Bilyaminu Yari-Sifawa, Sokoto State, says exclusive breastfeeding remains the best immunity against killer diseases for children from zero to six months.

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The director disclosed this while speaking during a 2-day Media Dialogue on Routine Immunisation and Zero Dose Reduction Campaign in Sokoto.

He explained that it was after six months of birth that vaccine were introduced to assist in improving the immunity of children, hence the need for mothers to embrace exclusive breast feeding for the good of their children, the society and the country at large.

Yari-Sifawa said vaccine-preventable diseases have not gone away, vaccines help keep children healthy, it remained important to people’s health just as diet, vaccines are safe, effective and free, among others.

The Chief UNICEF Field Officer in Sokoto, Dr Maryam Darwesh said, “It is no longer a secret that immunisation is the most cost-effective, high-impact intervention for dealing with vaccine-preventable diseases, especially in children under five.

“Unfortunately, despite its efficacy, immunisation uptake has not always been at its highest level in some countries, with Nigeria not being an exception.

“According to the National Immunisation Coverage Survey (NICS) 2021, Nigeria has made progress in immunisation, with national Routine Immunisation coverage of children receiving all three doses of the pentavalent vaccine at 57 per cent, but the Completeness of Routine Immunisation coverage is 36 per cent. For Northwest Nigeria, the figure is only 25 per cent.”

She said recent data from UNICEF’s flagship report, the State of the World Children’s Report (SOWC) 2023, lists Nigeria as one of the countries with highest Zero Dose children, meaning a reference to children who didn’t receive a single dose of antigens they should have taken at their age to give them protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Darwesh said according to the report, out of the 67 million children who missed routine vaccination between 2019 and 2022, stood at 48 million who didn’t receive a single regular vaccine.

She added that as of the end of 2021, India and Nigeria had the most significant numbers of zero-dose children.

“We all know that The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation as it interrupted childhood vaccination almost everywhere, mainly due to intense demands on healthcare systems, the diversion of immunisation resources to COVID-19 vaccination, health worker shortages, and stay-at-home measures.

“Today, vaccines are estimated to be one of the most cost-effective means of advancing global welfare. Our director public health already mentioned how vaccine works and act as a protective shield for the children against deadly diseases. Despite these longstanding benefits, low immunisation levels persist.

“In recent years, the World Health Organisation declared vaccine hesitancy a top threat to public health. While vaccine hesitancy is as old as vaccination itself, the nature of the challenge continues to shift with the social landscape,” she said.

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