The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has called for the reinforcement of routine immunisation in Nigeria in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic to protect children from preventable childhood diseases.
UNICEF’s representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, who made the call in a statement on Wednesday, called on governments at all levels to ‘seize the moment’ for routine vaccination.
“Nigeria is facing a critical moment of choice, wherein children can either be protected from a host of preventable diseases or face an uncertain future and possibly dire health prospects.
“This is a critical moment for Nigeria’s children; we can either seize it or condemn millions of children to preventable illness or even death,” he said.
Mr Hawkins said, according to new data by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, the global disruptions due to COVID-19 pandemic were threatening to reverse hard-won progress in immunisation rates worldwide.
According to him, at stake is critical progress made over the last decades in reaching more children and adolescents with a wider range of vaccines, including in Nigeria.
“However, despite this progress, Nigeria still contributes 30 per cent of the global number of un-immunised children between the ages of zero and five.
“We have a long way to go to ensure greater protection for children against disease and vaccination rates, including against the highly contagious and deadly measles virus that are in danger of lapsing.
“Let us seize this moment to re-imagine how we bring vaccinations to children, leveraging on existing community structures for COVID-19 prevention to improve vaccination rates too and ensure a brighter and healthier future for Nigeria’s children,” he said.
Also, Dr Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, called on stakeholders to seize the moment to be creative and act wisely.
Mr Shuaib said: “We are in a strong position here in Nigeria; we have a full stock of routine immunisation vaccines.
“We can use the strong community outreach programmes across the country, not only to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but to also ensure children receive vaccinations for diseases we can easily prevent.”
In her remarks, UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore said that the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened the challenge of vaccinating every child.
Ms Henrietta, therefore, called for halt in further deterioration in vaccine coverage and reinforcing vaccination services before children’s lives were threatened by other outbreaks.
“We cannot trade one health crisis for another,” she said.