The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have appealed to the Federal Government for an increase in immunization funding in order to tackle major measles and polio epidemics. This is coming after the covid-19 pandemic disrupted immunization.
The cost estimate given by the organization is $400 million – $655 million for polio, and $255 million for measles. The funds will assist in addressing dangerous immunity gaps in non-GAVI eligible countries and target age groups.
The organizations emphasized the urgency of the situation as failure to eradicate polio especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan and some other African countries would escalate to a global rebirth of the disease with over 200, 000 new cases yearly, for about 10 years.
Oluwatosin Akingbulu, UNICEF communication specialist, stated that Nigeria’s concentration on the fight against one deadly disease should not bring about negligence in the fight against other diseases.
Although Nigeria was declared free of the wild poliovirus in August 2020, Oluwatosin stated that Nigeria still stands the risk of both polio and measles outbreak. This is as a result of inadequate improvement of the routine immunization coverage by acquiring life-saving vaccines.
Measles has constantly been the major cause of death and disability in children as the first dose of measles vaccination only reaches 54 percent coverage according to a report by the National Demographic Health Survey, 2018.
Mr. Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, added that immunization is the optimum means to secure the future of the Nigerian child.
He urged all caregivers and parents to prioritize the full vaccination of their children in order to protect them from childhood diseases. He also pleaded with parents to ensure that doses are consistently taken in order to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine.
In like manner, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General stated that unlike the COVID-19, ‘we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles. What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action. If we do that, children’s lives will be saved.’
The organizations also spoke on the need to keep up the vaccination rate by engaging traditional and religious institutions alongside other key stakeholders to avert the rebirth of the virus.
There has been a global rise of measles in recent years with outbreaks in various countries. The corona-virus pandemic contributed to the rebirth in 2020 as a result of vaccination coverage gaps.
Photo Credit: WHO