In a recent report, UNICEF revealed that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of zero-dose immunisation among children. Dr. Maryam Darwesh, the Chief UNICEF Field Officer for Sokoto State, made the announcement during a two-day media dialogue on Saturday at the Sokoto Guest In organised by UNICEF in partnership with the state primary health care development agencies of Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara, and focused on the routine immunisation campaign and zero dose reduction campaign. Darwesh elaborated that this aligns with the findings of the UNICEF flagship report, the State of the World’s Children’s Report (SOWA) 2023.
The field officer stated this in reference to the children who had not received even a single dose of the antigens they were supposed to have received at their age to protect them from diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. According to the findings of the study, out of the 67 million children who didn’t receive their routine vaccinations between 2019 and 2022, 48 million didn’t receive a single regular vaccination. At the end of the year 2021, the countries of India and Nigeria had the largest significant numbers of children who received zero doses.
Vaccine hesitancy is the greatest threat to public health.
Represented by the Health Manager of UNICEF Sokoto Field Office, Dr. Shamina Sharmin, she said that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation because it prevented childhood vaccination almost everywhere, primarily because of heavy demands on healthcare systems. So, she mentioned that Nigeria has improved its immunisation rates, as 57% of its children have received all three doses of the pentavalent vaccine, according to the National Immunization Coverage Survey (NICS) 2021. The survey found that only 36% of children in Northwest Nigeria had received complete routine immunisations; this shows the figure is only 25 percent.
Dr. Darwesh referenced the fact that vaccine hesitancy has been as long as vaccination itself, adding that the social environment continues to alter the nature of the challenge and that the World Health Organization has identified it as the greatest threat to public health. UNICEF suggested that Nigeria should continue to raise awareness of the significance of routine immunisation among caregivers, decision-makers, communities, and the general public in order to build on the progress that has been made in routine immunisations.
Underserved and under-reached communities should be given awareness.
To ensure every child is protected with these life-saving vaccines, they stressed the importance of spreading accurate information and preventing the spread of misinformation. Raising awareness of the significance of Routine Immunization amongst caregivers, communities, decision-makers, and the public is recommended by UNICEF as a means for Nigeria to build on the progress already made in this area. Through community engagement and the formation of partnerships, they strive to earn the trust of caregivers and communities by delivering accurate information about vaccines.
She emphasised the importance of involving the development of collaborations with the media, civil society organisations, and religious groups in order to increase awareness in communities that were underserved and under-reached. She noted that the states that receive coverage by the Sokoto field officer have the highest burden of unimmunised children in the country and that the field officer is responsible for maintaining 22 local government areas out of the 100 substantial zero-dose areas in the nation.
Inadequate immunisation coverage poses a risk to children’s lives.
Lastly, according to UNICEF, the latest outbreaks of diphtheria in Sokoto, Kebbi, and Zamfara were discovered to have occurred in areas where there were children who had not received any vaccinations. Because of the risk to children’s lives that inadequate immunisation coverage causes, it is critical that Routine Immunization be strengthened. She elaborated on how crucial it is for UNICEF to increase public mobilisation so that the media, with its mass-mediated news and information delivery platforms, be actively engaged in a strategic and constructive manner.