UNDETERRED by the security challenges in some of the polio endemic states in the country, the Federal Government, in collaboration with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), will tomorrow begin a three-day nationwide Immunisation Plus Days (IPDs) targeting 50 million children under the age of five with bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (bOPV).
The government has also promised that the security challenges raised by the Boko Haram sect will not stop the polio immunisation campaign in the affected states, even as it set up a special team to cover the sensitive states.
Nigeria is one of the three polio endemic countries that have not been able to stop the transmission of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV). The other two countries are Afghanistan and Pakistan. India was among the endemic countries until last month. The polio endemic states in Nigeria include Kano, Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe, Borno, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto.
To ensure that some children are not missed out during the IPDs, avoid low quality rounds and shortage of routine vaccines, the government, with assistance from CDC and WHO, has deployed Geographic Information System (GIS) and the Geographic Positioning System (GPS) to identify unreached children and monitor efficiency of vaccinators. The government is also stockpiling enough vaccines to cater for the routine immunization needs of the country till September 2012.
Routine vaccines in Nigeria include those for tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles, yellow fever, polio, measles, diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT) and poliovirus.
GIS is a tool that captures, stores, analyses and presents data linked to location(s). The technology has been applied widely in such fields as archeology, geography, cartography, urban planning and land surveying. GPS is used to track the position or where a health worker is at any particular time. It is to be used to monitor the compliance of the vaccinators during IPDs.
GIS was adopted in Nigeria to further improve operational quality of supplementary immunization activities (SIAs) after a pilot study was carried out in November 2010 to determine the feasibility of using the technology to support both implementation and monitoring of SIAs.
According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), additional technical support, including 11 consultants (short-term contracts) and 11 CDC Stop Transmission Of Polio (STOP) consultants have arrived in Abuja and have been deployed based on assessment of security concerns.
Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Gana Ado Mohammed told The Guardian yesterday, ahead of the nationwide immunisation programme scheduled to hold from Saturday to Monday, that “for this round, we are going to use 63 million doses of bOPV to reach 50 million children nationwide. Unlike previous rounds, we want to make sure that we get the best quality of our campaign. This time around, we are going to partner the missionary institutions and traditional leaders.
“We are also going to partner with WHO, UNICEF, and CDC and make sure that every vaccinator that is selected from a community is somebody who is matured, hardworking and competent because the essence of IPDs is that you should be able to administer a potent and safe vaccine on a child who is under-five. So we are going to screen the vaccinators and make sure that only the best will be selected. We are working closely with CDC on GIS and they are also helping us in technical assistance with a large number of very competent supervisors under the CDC STOP.”