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Nigeria to administer rotavirus vaccine

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By Mercy Kelani

Rotavirus-related diseases account for over 10% of under-five deaths.

Nigeria has recently introduced the rotavirus vaccine, which enables protection against rotavirus-related diarrhea disease, into its routine immunization program. Partnering with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, WHO, and UNICEF, Nigeria intends to reach out to 7 million children across all 36 states in the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) within the next 12 months. Diseases related to the rotavirus are major causes of chronic diarrhea in children across the world and are recorded to be the third leading cause of Child Mortality in Nigeria, with an account of over 10% of under-five deaths.

Rotavirus is a contagious virus that causes diarrhea and many other intestinal symptoms and is mostly prevalent in infants and young children. It is often spread through a fecal-oral route, due to improper and irregular washing of hands; the eating or drinking of contaminated food or water could also lead to an emergence of the virus. The virus causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines, which leads to severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain and dehydration.

Vaccination will reduce infection in unimmunized populations.

After the launch of the vaccine, it will firstly be made available in 19 states and the Federal Capital Territory, especially in areas with lower vaccination coverage, before it begins effect in the remaining 17 states. The administration of the rotavirus will be made orally to infants at 6, 10 and 14 weeks of age. The launch of the rotavirus vaccine is a landmark towards the protection of many Nigerian children against diseases that are preventable through Vaccines.

Vaccination would be accompanied by other primary health care services and diarrhea prevention strategies such as hand washing and sanitizing, exclusive breastfeeding, and provision of clean water and Sanitation Facilities. The administering of the vaccine to young children will bring about a reduction in the rates of rotavirus infection amidst unimmunized and elderly populations. It would also prevent the use of ineffective antibiotics usually prescribed as treatment against rotavirus infections, thereby disallowing the rise of antibiotic resistance.

Gavi assured Nigeria of its support with the vaccine.

Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance is a public-private global health partnership which aims at increasing accessibility to immunization in poor countries. Globally, Gavi has aided the immunization of more than 760 million children, preventing about 13 million deaths. The alliance has been able to facilitate vaccinations in developing countries through its work with donor governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry in industrialized and developing countries, civil society, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and other private philanthropic organizations.

The Managing Director of Country Programs for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Thabani Maphosa, commended the commitment of the Federal Government of Nigeria and assured the country of the willingness of the vaccine alliance to work with all partners to contribute to the achievement of the program, as it aims at being a lifesaver to children. Partners have devised a plan to introduce several service delivery strategies, which includes daily vaccination in selected sites and mobile sessions that help to connect to hard-to-reach rural communities, to reach many children speedily.

According to WUENIC, Nigeria maintained child immunization gains in 2021.

In recent years, with collaborative efforts of The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and partners towards the strengthening of health systems, the country has gradually increased COVID-19 vaccine coverage and committed to the maintenance of routine immunization as part of its Optimized SCALES 2.0 strategy. According to WHO/UNICEF most recent estimation of National Immunization Coverage (WUENIC), Nigeria has been highlighted as one of the few countries that pursued the maintenance of gains in routine childhood immunization in 2021, even while the pandemic negatively affected essential health services around the world.


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