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Covid-19: Vaccination rates relapsing, UNICEF warns

By Hassan Zaggi

The United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) has expressed concern over the decline of immunization rates in the Nigeria.

It, therefore, called on the federal government to take appropriate measures  leveraging on existing community structures for Covid-19 prevention to improve the vaccination of children in all parts of the country.

The call came as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of an alarming decline in global vaccine coverage due to a COVID-19 pandemic that is disrupting the delivery and uptake of immunization services around the world.

In Nigeria, numbers show that routine immunizations in the first 6 months of 2020 have dropped compared to the same period in 2019 – indicating a deterioration in important routine vaccination coverage, due to Covid-19.

The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, further noted that: “This is a critical moment for Nigeria’s children. We can either seize it – or condemn millions of children to preventable illness or even death.”

He further reiterated that: “We have a long way to go to ensure greater protection for children against disease – and vaccination rates, including against the highly contagious and deadly measles virus, are in danger of lapsing.

“Let’s seize this moment to reimagine how we bring vaccinations to children, leveraging on existing community structures for Covid-19 prevention, to improve vaccination rates too – and ensure a brighter and healthier future for Nigeria’s children.”

In a statement in Abuja, Thursday, UNICEF said that countries of the world including Nigeria made critical progress over the last decades in reaching more children and adolescents with a wider range of vaccines.

However, despite this progress, Nigeria still contributes 30 percent of the global number of unimmunized children between the ages of 0 and 5.

The UNICEF Chief further said that: “No Nigerian child should die from a preventable disease that can be easily prevented with an affordable vaccine that is readily available within our borders.

“Let us not let Covid-19 distract us from the work we still need to do to ensure that EVERY Nigerian children receives their full routine immunizations.”

On his part, the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, said: “We are in a strong position here in Nigeria – we have a full stock of routine immunization vaccines and can use the strong community outreach programmes across the country, not only to prevent the spread of Covid-19, but to also ensure children receive vaccinations for diseases we can easily prevent.

“We must seize this moment to be creative and act wisely.”

Global disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic are threatening to reverse hard-won progress in immunization rates worldwide, according to new data by WHO and UNICEF.

In her reaction, the UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, said: “We already knew the challenge of vaccinating every child was daunting, and now we know that Covid-19 has made a challenging situation even worse.

“We must halt a further deterioration in vaccine coverage and reinforce vaccination services before children’s lives are threatened by other outbreaks. We cannot trade one health crisis for another.”

Written by ExpressDay

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