By Princess-Ekwi Ajide Abuja
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the newly recorded Wild Polio Virus (WPV) case in Malawi was imported.
The WHO Regional Immunisation Advisor for Africa, Richard Mihigo, who disclosed this while addressing journalists at Area 2 Primary Health Care (PHC) centre in Abuja also assured that the new case did not affect Africa’s status of being polio-free
Mr Mihigo said that the imported case was promptly detected owing to good surveillance system in the country stressing that effective routine immunisation had prevented the country from experiencing polio outbreak for almost 30 years.
The Regional Immunisation Advisor, said WHO has data in place that is being analysed in the laboratory to find out more about the imported case.
Mr Mihigo, who is one of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi) team to Nigeria, said they were in the country to assess the progress on the implementation of routine immunisation, Polio, and also the progress on COVID-19 vaccination.
He said it is important for the African continent to improve its quality surveillance systems to prevent another outbreak while noting that the case in Malawi raises concerns that the virus could reemerge in the region.
“It’s important that we continue to tighten the surveillance system, but also continue to increase coverage for routine immunisation so the new cohorts of children that are born are protected against any type of imported infection,” he said.
Mr Mihigo, while speaking on their essence of the visit to PHC, said they were impressed to see how functional the health care centre is.
“We have seen people coming to receive their COVID-19 vaccination, what is so heartwarming is that many parents also brought their children to receive routine vaccination.
“So I think this is really something we are congratulating the government of Nigeria for and we hope that this will continue to increase people’s confidence not only for routine immunisation, but also to make sure that the numbers for COVID-19 vaccination are improving,” he said.
In her remarks, an independent board member of Gavi, Helen Reese, said vaccination is one of the most powerful tools known to protect children from various diseases adding that Gavi is supporting the Nigerian government to increase routine immunisation for children.
“These childhood diseases and some of the commonest killers here we understand are diarrhea and pneumonia, and many of those deaths could be avoided, if we could improve on immunisation coverage,” she said.
WHO’s Director, Immunisation, vaccines and biologicals, Dr. Kate O’brien, on her part, said, a lot still has to be done especially in achievable the global goal of 70 percent coverage of the whole population.
According to her, it is clear that the country is going to reach the goals that it set for herself but towards the global goal of 70 percent coverage of the whole population, the pace for vaccination has to be increased.
She said there should be a huge increase in the number of people that are reached for vaccination in the next few months as there is still opportunity for that.
In her remarks, the Director, PHC Systems, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nneka Onu, who led the Guests on a tour of the facilities, said the visit was part of activities of the high level Gavi mission in Nigeria.
Ms Onu said it was important that they see how people are getting vaccinated, and the quality of service integrated.
Africa was certified polio free in August 2020 following the elimination of the virus in Nigeria. Nigeria was the last African country to eliminate the virus which can be prevented with adequate vaccination.
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