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Nigeria’s immunisation infrastructure cannot accommodate malaria vaccine rollout – UNICEF

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By Katurak Yashim

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says Nigeria must spend the next two to three years building its immunization infrastructure to enable the country to access and administer the malaria vaccine announced by the United Nations. WHO.

Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF representative in Nigeria, said this in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency on Friday in Abuja.

Hawkins was responding to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for the widespread administration of the RTS, S / AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine to children in sub-Saharan Africa and areas affected by the malaria parasite P falciparum.

reports that the WHO recommendation came after a pilot test of the vaccine on around 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi since 2019.

Hawkins said that while it would take some time before vaccines were publicly deployed, the federal government needed to build the infrastructure to accommodate the vaccine.

He added that “the WHO recommendation is very good news, but it will be some time before the vaccines are publicly available. The immunization structure in Nigeria is still evolving and it is a very robust structure.

“There is routine vaccination for children under five, there are vaccines against polio, measles, pneumococcal disease and COVID-19 vaccines; the next will be a vaccine against malaria.

“Over the next two or three years, we need to strengthen the infrastructure so that it can accommodate the malaria vaccine, influenza vaccine and other upcoming vaccines.

“The key issue will be the cost, the call chain, the distribution system. The cost of the vaccine will be the fundamental decision maker for a country with a high burden of malaria like Nigeria in moving this file forward. “

Hawkins said that for countries like Nigeria, the vaccine would go a long way in reducing the disease burden, as more than 2,300 children under the age of five die every day from various diseases, including malaria.

He expressed optimism that the government would decide to adopt the vaccine as part of the national malaria control strategy, noting that “each country will decide whether they want to adopt the vaccine or not.

“I think Nigeria will agree to use the vaccine and eventually see how it can integrate it into the overall immunization program.

“All the diseases that children face are preventable. It is very important to look at the statistics; for example, pneumonia is another problem which is where pneumococcal disease is introduced.

“UNICEF is working to reduce infant mortality and the burden of disease among children in Nigeria; this will continue to evolve over time, ”said Hawkins.

The UNICEF country representative said the role of the UN agency in Nigeria’s immunization program is to manage vaccines and support behavior change at the community level.

He explained that to achieve vaccine management, “the agency continuously focuses on developing market formation for vaccine procurement to allow more vaccines to arrive in Nigeria at cheaper rates. .

“We are doing this to see how we can bring vaccines to countries like Nigeria at cheaper prices and a supply that allows the country to be able to use them effectively.

“When the vaccine is rolled out, it will be huge for children in terms of reducing the burden of malaria and the death rate from malaria.

“The vaccine will also have a significant impact on other diseases such as measles, pneumonia, diarrhea and cholera.”

Hawkins emphasized the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for boosting a child’s immune system and protecting it from childhood illnesses.

He called on mothers to make sure they engage in exclusive breastfeeding, stressing that “the first 100 days of a child’s life are critical.

“Exclusive breastfeeding for the first few months is very important for boosting the baby’s immunity, increasing micronutrients and reducing the risk of stunted growth.

“There are also vaccines available to protect the child and build strength in the fight against malaria, measles, meningitis and other diseases,” Hawkins said.

reports that the malaria vaccine, according to the WHO, is given in four doses to children from five months of age to reduce the burden of the disease.

According to the WHO report, more than 2.3 million doses of the vaccine have so far been administered in the three African countries of Malawi, Kenya and Ghana, and have so far been shown to present a favorable safety profile.

WHO says the vaccine deployment modalities are still underway.

The United Nations health organization, however, says countries affected by malaria must decide whether to adopt the vaccine as part of national malaria control strategies.

reports that WHO estimates for 2019 show that children under five are the most vulnerable group affected by malaria, accounting for 67% of all malaria deaths globally.

In 2019, the African region was home to 94% of malaria cases and deaths, making it the most affected region in the world.

Source: NAN

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