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Polio: FG to intensify immunisation of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia

Following the recent confirmation of the outbreak of Wild Polio-Virus (WPV) in Borno State, the Federal Government declared, on Wednesday, that plans were underway to reinforce and intensify immunisation of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.

To this end, adequate supplies of vaccines have been provided at different International Port Health locations and airports. The development is part of the measures approved by the Federal Government to respond positively to the outbreak and check its spread to other communities.

Giving a situation report at a press conference on the outbreak in Abuja, on Wednesday, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, said the immunisation of intending pilgrims was consistent with the International Health Regulations (IHR).

The minister said he had approved the revision of the robust Wild Polio Virus (WPV) outbreak response plan developed by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and its partners. This approval, according to him, was to ensure the containment of all the cases and prevent further spread of WPV to other states.

The response plan includes five rounds of polio campaigns, two of which are focused on 18 Northern states and two to be conducted nationwide, while the remaining one is to be conducted in five states. However, the minister stated that the campaigns would be synchronised with the affected regions and provinces in Chad, Niger, Cameroun and Central African Republic.

Professor Adewole said: “For the sub-national campaigns, 31,540,054 children are targeted to be vaccinated each round with oral polio vaccines across states in the North-East, North-West and North-Central zones of the country. For the nationwide response, 56,363,618 children will be vaccinated between  October and November 2016.

“The revised plan was informed by factors such as historical data on WPV affected areas, pattern of transmission over the last five years, population displacements due to insecurity in the North-East, likelihood of spread of the virus to other neighbouring countries and population immunity.

“Furthermore, the justification for the expansion of the initial schedule includes the fact that, given previous history of exportation to other countries and the suboptimal routine immunisation coverage in several countries in the African region, the response requires that adequate protection be provided to vulnerable children at risk of infection.

“Report from the detailed investigation carried out by our team revealed that both cases came from security compromised areas of Borno State, which have had limited access to any form of health services, including immunisation since 2011.

“The case reported in Jere Local Government Area was from a child who had arrived at an Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Maiduguri (Muna camp in Jere Local Government Arae), after trekking for two days following the provision of an escape corridor by the military authorities.

“The second case was detected in Gwoza LGA. Both LGAs have had their health facilities destroyed by insurgents and accessibility was a barrier to service provision. Both cases have been linked to the polio cases detected in Bama in 2011.”

The Minister added: “For Nigeria, while the timely response in the affected local government areas and environs is critical, the country needs to be proactive to ensure all eligible children are vaccinated within the shortest time feasible so as to limit the spread of the virus beyond the affected areas and borders of the country.

“There remains a high risk of further spread of the virus due to population movement within and around the State. This spread is not limited to surrounding States but could also affect neighboring countries around the Lake Chad region. “So far we have, commenced vaccination of children in accessible areas of Gwoza, Jere, Maiduguri Municipal Council (MMC), Bama, Mafa (1 ward) LGAs concurrently with active case search.”

On the issue of security in the area, he said: “We are working closely with the Ministry of Defence to provide security for the Health Workers during the house to house immunization and also to provide timely information on security and accessibility situations in Borno State and its environs.

He said the Nutrition Department in the Federal Ministry of Health, the NPHCDA as well as Development Partners in the Nutrition programme will work closely with the Response Team in Borno State to provide nutritious meals alongside Oral Polio Vaccines to the targeted children.

The minister said he had also directed that food materials at Community Management Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) sites be redirected to support immunization services.