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Nigeria to avert 50,000 deaths in children annually, introduces rotavirus vaccine into vaccination schedule

World Health Organization (WHO) - Nigeria

Targeting universal immunization, the government of Nigeria through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, on 22 August 2022, introduced the rotavirus vaccine into  Routine Immunization (RI) Schedule. 

The introduction of the vaccine into the RI programme is in recognition of the magnitude of rotavirus-related diarrhoea disease and the immunisation programme aims to avert over 50,000 children’s death from the disease annually. 

With this, the vaccine that costs around N10,000 or more per dose in some healthcare facilities across the country will be given free of cost to all infants at the age of 6, 10 and 14 weeks, along with other vaccines under the RI programme. 

Life-saving vaccine

Speaking during the launch of Rotavirus Vaccine into Nigeria Routine Immunization Schedule and  Flag-off of the 2022 African Vaccination Week (AVW) in Abuja, the Minister of Health, represented by the Director of Public Health Dr Alex Okoh, said the introduction of the life-saving rotavirus vaccine into the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) is important because it is expected to avert over 110,000 deaths in under five children in the next 10 years.

She said the Government of Nigeria with the support of our donors and partners spent huge amounts of money to procure RI vaccines because improving the health of the children remains a priority. 

“We urge parents and caregivers to take advantage of the privilege to ensure that their children are vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable diseases. We also acknowledge the role of traditional and religious leaders, parents and caregivers, Primary Health Care (PHC) leaders at the sub-national level and all healthcare workers across 40,000 facilities for their doggedness, in ensuring no Nigerian Child is Left Behind in accessing potent vaccines and other PHC services. 

Furthermore, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib appreciated stakeholders, including WHO, for the support in getting Nigeria to include the rotavirus in its RI programme. 

“We want to congratulate stakeholders that have supported this event today. With the launch of the rotavirus vaccine, every child will get the opportunity to receive the vaccine with RI and we can reduce childhood mortality. Like all other vaccines, it is free and safe and we urge parents to present their children to health facilities to receive their vaccines”, he said. 

Reducing out-of-pocket expenditure 

Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhoeal and other intestinal symptoms. It’s very contagious and is the most common cause of diarrhoea in infants and young children worldwide.  Children are expected to get the three doses of the vaccine orally, 1st dose at six weeks, 2nd and 3rd at 10 and 14 weeks respectively. 

In his welcome remark, the WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo commending the government for the introduction of the Rotavirus vaccine into the EPI Schedule said it provides the opportunity to reduce the number of children dying every day from diarrhoea disease caused by rotavirus.

Dr Mulombo said that the public health impact of rotavirus vaccine introduction has been demonstrated in several countries with as much as 50% of deaths from diarrheal diseases averted.

He said the introduction is part of the comprehensive strategy to control diarrhoeal diseases with the scaling up of both preventive and treatment packages as Nigeria is one of the 4 countries that harbour approximately half the global burden of the disease. 

“Immunization remains the most cost-effective public health intervention. If we stop vaccination, deadly diseases will return, and when people are not vaccinated, infectious diseases that have become uncommon can quickly return. I want to commend the efforts of the Government of Nigeria for keeping immunization high on the national agenda”.

Let me assure you of WHO’s continued commitment to providing technical support to the introduction of the Rotavirus Vaccine into Nigeria’s Routine Immunization Schedule and indeed other health interventions, he said.

Parents relief  

Meanwhile, Sarah Obiye Albert, a  mother of three, whose 6-weeks-old daughter benefited from the Rotavirus vaccination launch commended the government for the initiative.

She said this would reduce money spent on immunization services by a parent as she had to pay to receive the vaccine for her other two children. 

“We say thank you to the government for making the vaccine available. As a mother, I am grateful because it would reduce the money spent on treatment of a child or accessing vaccination, she said.  

Similarly, Kikelomo Lambo, a mother of two who attended the launch said “today is a good day as the introduction of the vaccine into the RI schedule would reduce the out-of-pocket expenditure spent on the vaccine. 

“I paid N10, 000 per dose for my children. This meant I paid N30, 000 for the three doses. This is high and many parents cannot afford it. But with it being free now, many children would benefit from it and this will reduce death or illness from rotavirus disease, she said. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Nigeria.

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