OWERRI, Nigeria, June 6, 2023/ — In 2020, approximately 50,000 children below age one in Imo State, South East Nigeria, missed the uptake of the Pentavalent Vaccine due to COVID-19 disruption.
A single dose of the Pentavalent vaccine is expected to have been taken at the sixth week of age. The Pentavalent vaccine protects a child from 5 life-threatening diseases – Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae type b).
To address the situation, Imo State Government, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and other partners, is intensifying efforts to reach the Zero dose children (eligible children that have not received single-dose of routine vaccine) by launching a “Big Catch-Up” vaccination drive in the state.
For 37-year-old Cynthia Ogajua, her 9-month-old son, missed his scheduled vaccines because she gave birth at home and did not go to the health facility.
“I was not aware that he can still receive the vaccine after missing it. I am happy the children still have the opportunity to receive the vaccines. We appreciate the government and its partners for making the vaccines available at no cost”, she says.
Aside from children, adults also received COVID-19 vaccination, as well as benefited from the integrated health services rendered during the campaign.
Lauding the initiative, Eze David Onumaraekwu Egwunwoke, the traditional leader of Akwakuma, located in Owerri North Local Government Area (LGA), Imo state, says WHO has always supported the government to bring health to the doorstep of Nigeria.
He as well encourages every parent in his community to ensure their children get vaccinated and not miss any of the life-saving vitals.
In line with the Government of Nigeria’s vision of integrating all Primary Health Care (PHC) services under one plan, the campaign integrated COVID-19 vaccination with Routine Immunization (RI) services and Vitamin A supplementation.
After the campaign, 211 children received the pentavalent and OPV vaccines and 162 received the rotavirus vaccine, of which, 28 Zero dose children received the first dose of the life-saving vaccines.
Meanwhile, 51 people were vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine, 56 screened for Hypertension and 66 for diabetes.
“The initiative has proven to be particularly effective in reaching populations with limited access to regular health services, as well as, providing an opportunity to integrate other health services with the immunization campaign, explains the Executive Secretary of the State Primary Healthcare Agency, Rev. Sister Dr Maria-Joanes Uzoma
Applauding WHO for supporting the state government in achieving Universal Health Coverage. , Dr Uzoma represented by the Director of Disease Control and Immunization, Dr Uchechukwu Odom, says WHO has been providing technical assistance and building the capacity of health workers in the state.
He says the WHO is a great partner in encouraging the revitalization of primary health care in the state.
Commending the vaccination exercise and WHO for its work, UNICEF Consultant, Mr Nwabuisi Augustine assured that sister United National International agency will continue to support with vaccines and logistics.
Furthermore, the WHO Imo State Coordinator, Dr Wadzingi Williams Bassi reiterated that the ultimate goal of the vaccination exercise is for more children, adults and their communities to be protected from vaccine-preventable diseases.
He says The Big Catch-Up” drive is a strategic priority of the World Health Organization’s immunization agenda is to reach all zero dose children with vaccines.
He explains that from 2019 to 2021, an estimated 6.2 million Nigerian children missed out on receiving life-saving vaccines due to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the exercise aims to ensure all Zero dose children or those who have missed out on the vaccine are reached with the vaccines.
While commemorating the 2023 African Vaccination Week in April, WHO launched a global call to catch up on vaccines missed due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Imo State, other services provided along with immunization included COVID-19 vaccinations for adults, non-communicable diseases screening, TB screening, and health education on key household practices among others.
“The Big Catch Up” is the theme for the 2023 campaign, and it was aimed at catching up with children who missed vaccinations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and restoring and strengthening routine immunization programs.