Lagos, WHO, UNICEF, Rotary move to interrupt new polio outbreak in Lagos

...initiates house to house immunisation campaign

The Lagos State Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Belinda and Bill Gates Foundation and Rotary International among other organizations have swung into action to interrupt a new poliovirus outbreak in Lagos State, Nigeria.

This is as the state embarks on a house to house aggressive vaccination exercise across 20 local government areas of the state on Friday.

The Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Titilayo Goncalves, confirmed the outbreak of poliovirus in the state during an emergency press briefing in Lagos on Thursday.

She disclosed that the virus was detected on water samples taken from three canals in Makoko, Itire and Maracana areas of the state during a routine surveillance exercise carried out on all the water bodies in the state.

The outbreak represents the first poliovirus incident after 12 years of no report in the state and 32 months of nonoccurrence in Nigeria.

According to Dr.Usman Adamu, the Incident Manager, National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria was on the verge of being declared a poliovirus free nation by the WHO before the current incident.

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“This is why we will be here on the field in the next few days to support the supervision of the outbreak response in Lagos”, Dr. Fiona Braka, the WHO representative and Immunization Team Lead, said while addressing stakeholders and newsmen during the emergency meeting. “It is our mandate to see a world free of polio and a Nigeria free of polio.

“Nigeria has made remarkable progress in the fight against polio, having recorded 32 months without a wide polio outbreak. However, this outbreak is a different strain and we are responding differently and appropriately to it.

“The vaccination exercise is aimed at administering two drops of polio vaccines to children who are below 5 years of age across 20 local government areas of the state using a house to house approach.

“However, we can only achieve this if everyone works collectively to bring out children under the age of five to get two drops of polio vaccines over the next four days.

Speaking about the vaccination exercise, Braka stressed that “All children regardless of their previous vaccination status must receive this vaccine.

She said that “High coverage with the vaccine is needed to break the transmission and build immunity against the virus. The vaccine we are going to provide is not the routine vaccine given through the health facilities. So, we do not want any child to miss this opportunity because we have a specific period in which to provide this vaccine.”

She maintained that the vaccine was safe, effective and free of charge and should not be denied of any child in Lagos.

Speaking against complacency at this stage in Nigeria’s battle against polio eradication, the Rotary International representative and Vice Chairman, Southwest Rotary (NNPPC), Past District Governor, Abayomi Adewunmi enjoined all stakeholders to rally round to ensure that this current outbreak is interrupted.

“We are 99.9 percent towards eradicating polio in Nigeria. You know when the race is about to finish that is when people usually start getting tired and complacent. We do not want complacency to kick in; we want to completely kick polio out in Nigeria.

“We are asking all hands to be on deck. Now that the outbreak is here, we must work together to interrupt it.”

According to the Adewunmi, the Rotary International has been on the forefront in the fight against the eradication of polio, spending over 9 billion dollars with a record of over 2.7 billion children successfully immunized since 1985.

The C4D Polio Specialist, UNICEF, Nigeria, Hayon Nam, in her speech, enjoined the media to support the campaign to end poliovirus spread by creating awareness for parents to bring out their children for the vaccination exercise.

Nigeria is among the three countries with poliovirus prevalence in the world. The two other countries are Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2019 alone, two countries have recorded about 29 cases, while Nigeria was on the last lap of being declared poliovirus free.

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