Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole has declared the recent polio outbreak as a national public health emergency following the report of two (2) wild polio virus (WPV) cases in Gwoza and Jere local government areas (LGAs) of Borno state last week after two (2) years without a single case.
The Minister who made the declaration at a press briefing in Abuja on 17 August, 2016, also approved the revised WPV outbreak response (OBR) plan by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and partners to include an immediate response in Borno, three (3) sub-national vaccination campaigns which will be synchronized with neighboring regions in Cameroun, Chad and Niger. The scope of these campaigns is largely dependent on vaccine availability.
For the sub-national campaigns, 31,540,054 children will be targeted for vaccination each round with oral polio vaccines (OPV) across 18 states in the North East, North West and North Central zones of the country. For the nationwide response, 56,363,618 children have been earmarked to be reached separately in October and November, 2016. The revised plan was informed by factors including WPV transmission patterns, routine immunization coverage and availability of polio vaccines on the international market.
Professor Adewole explained that “the justification for the expansion of the initial schedule includes the fact that, given previous history of exportation to other countries and the suboptimal routine immunization coverage in several countries in the African region, the response requires that adequate protection is provided to eligible children at risk of infection throughout the sub-region”.
For Nigeria, while the timely response in the LGAs and environs is critical, the country needs to be proactive to ensure all eligible children are vaccinated within the shortest time feasible so as to limit the spread of the virus beyond the affected areas and borders of the country.
The case reported in Jere LGA is from a child who had arrived with her parents at an internally displaced persons (IDPs) camp – Muna camp (Jere LGA) after two days travelling on foot from Marte LGA which is currently completely inaccessible due to insecurity. The second case was detected in Gwoza LGA. Both LGAs have had their health facilities destroyed by insurgency with health services provision disrupted. The two (2) cases have now been linked to polio cases detected in Bama LGA of Borno state in 2011.
The Minister therefore disclosed that “we are working closely with the Ministry of Defense to provide security for the health workers who will be providing polio immunization depending on timely security information and military escorts that will facilitate hit-and-run activities for the partially accessible areas”.
He stated that plans are underway to reinforce and intensify immunization of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. To this end, adequate supplies of vaccines have been provided at different International Port Health locations and airports. This is consistent with the International Health Regulations.
Any confirmed case of WPV in any country is considered a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Mindful of malnutrition amongst recently liberated populations, the OBR will be integrated to provide nutritional support alongside OPV to the targeted children.
In conclusion, the Minister appealed to the journalists to assist government in creating awareness, mobilizing acceptance and restoring confidence of the populace in the health system to stop polio transmission in the shortest possible time.
This story originally at WHO Africa
Kobby Blay is the chief health editor at Ghanahealthnest.com. A professional practicing nurse with specialty in mental health and focus for health communications, public health, medical/documentary photography, ICT and systems perspective for health improvement.