Nigeria may get clean bill on polio by 2017


UNICEF tasks govt, others on eradication

NIGERIA is making further inroads into its quest to be declared free of wild polio virus and going by the calculation of the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders, the nation is counting down to interrupting the virus transmission next July (in six months time).

However, recent information that Nigeria would soon be declared polio-free is not correct, going by the analysis of stakeholders yesterday.  Instead, if Nigeria sustains the momentum with interrupting transmission, it could be declared free of the virus in 2017-in line with globally laid down protocols.

Speaking at the 29th meeting of the Expert Review Committee on Routine Immunization held in Abuja, yesterday, Country Representative of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Dr. Suomi Sakai, said Nigeria was on track to eradicating polio by 2017.

 Sakai said:  “We still have three more years to go to ensure certification, if these years, we don’t have more cases of polio.  So, we are on a good track. But, we are not there yet. I think we need to continue motivating all the community workers, the traditional leaders, the politicians to continue their efforts because the goal is possible.”

 UNICEF stressed that vaccination should not be only against polio, but against all forms of communicable diseases to help reduce mortality. She urged politicians to support the efforts.

Chairman of the Expert Review Committee, Prof Oyewale Tomori, said: “The recent information which has been misinterpreted by the generality of Nigerians that Nigeria will be declared free of polio is not correct. The issue is that, according to WHO regulation, we need to be totally free of polio for three years before we are declared polio free. I think that is what is what we want to achieve. Polio transmission is just a step in the way. Polio eradication is what we are looking for. That will require us to sustain no polio for the next three years.”

He called for the strengthening of surveillance, noting that Nigeria had not done very well in that regard. “The issue of the fact is that we are having what we call compatible polio cases, which means that our surveillance has not gone very well. We need to improve on our surveillance to ensure that such compatible cases do not occur.”

 Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Mohammad said, “When we compare that with 2013, it is about 89 percent reduction in cases of our polio virus in Nigeria. So far, the last case of wild polio virus in Nigeria was reported on 24 July 2014, making it six months without any case of wild polio virus in the country,” he said.

He went on: “Let’s also not forget that of all polio-endemic countries, Nigeria has made much more progress than any of these countries. As at the last count, Afghanistan recorded 32 cases of wild polio virus, Pakistan recorded 237 cases of wild polio virus, with Nigeria reported only few cases of wild polio virus. So, the world is looking up to Nigeria as the next country to exit as polio-endemic country.

“This is not just by chance. This is the result of hard work put in by the programme. As we talk of polio, let’s not forget that polio and immunization must go together. If you make gain in polio without maintaining routine immunization, you cannot sustain that gain. This is the first time in this country that routine immunization is working and working very well. We have been able to move routine immunization coverage from 52 percent two years ago to remarkable and commendable level of 91 percent national average administrative coverage by the end of 2014.What it means is that 31 percent of children that are eligible are being reached by safe vaccines.”

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