2.2 million children unvaccinated in Nigeria, says paediatric association

June 6, 2024

The President of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria, Professor Ekanem Ekure has lamented that Nigeria disproportionately accounts for 2.2 million of the 4.4 million zero-dose children in West Africa, the highest in the world.

According to her, only 23 per cent of children were fully immunised according to the Expanded Programme on Immunization schedule in 2021.

She stated this at the Paediatric Association of Nigeria’s Children’s Art Competition on Immunisation to commemorate the 2024 Children’s Day in Lagos.

While expressing concern that Nigeria has the highest under-five mortality rate in the world, the physician lamented that these children are dying from diseases that can be prevented.

She noted, “The statistics of children who have received all the vaccines in the national programme is 23 per cent, which is low. It is not surprising that our under-five mortality rate is so high.

“We have the highest under-five mortality rate in the world, and unfortunately, these children are dying from diseases that can be prevented, for which the government has made vaccines available for free.

“Zero-dose children are children who have not received any immunisation. West Africa has 4.4 million zero-dose children, and Nigeria has 2.2 million zero-dose children, which is very sad.

“The top areas where those zero-dose children tend to be more located are the urban slums, conflict areas, and remote and hard-to-reach communities in Nigeria. So, a lot has to be done to reach these children in those communities to ensure that they receive these immunisations.”

On the choice of the theme “Investing in our future means investing in our Children,” Ekure added, “Children are the future of any nation. Therefore, any effort to boost immunisation in children is securing the future of our nation. Coincidentally, the second phase of the human papillomavirus vaccination in Nigeria starts today in 21 states and will last for a week. This is for young girls aged 9–14 years to prevent cervical cancer and safeguard their future.”

She noted that traditional assessments miss a child’s creativity, adding that they launched the competition to let children express the importance of immunisation through art.

The physician said the children harnessed their creativity to express the importance of health and well-being through their beautiful artwork.

On what can be done to change the narrative and increase uptake, Ekure maintained that immunisation is everybody’s business.

She stated that the government, caregivers, healthcare workers, the community, religious leaders, and traditional rulers have a role to play.

“Healthcare workers need to learn to treat caregivers decently and politely when they come for immunisation. They should also do things promptly so that people don’t have to waste all day waiting for the immunisation.

Everyone must be an immunization champion. Let’s keep making lots of noise about immunisation. We all need to put our hands on deck to reduce this abysmally low rate of immunisation optics,” she stressed.

In her presentation titled, “Facts in Immunisation”, a paediatrician neonatologist and associate professor of paediatrics at the College of Medicine University of Lagos, Dr Iretiola Fajuolu,  described immunisation as God’s gift to man.

“It is our corporate social responsibility and it is a way of getting ourselves protected from harmful disease. Immunization is a very viable tool to prevent infectious diseases. Vaccines have been made available for over thirty diseases, which are infectious diseases and what vaccines do.

“Our indexes are still very low. Ignorance is one major reason why our people do not go for vaccinations. We need all hands on deck to educate people. We need the media to educate Nigerians on the importance of immunisation.

“The government is doing a lot to make these vaccines available in conjunction with global partners who have vaccines available. The vaccines are expensive but some people have paid for them, it is a shame that we will have these vaccines and they are not being utilised, especially because the diseases that these vaccines protect against are deadly, they are the major killers of children. This year we have asked children to do artwork related to immunisation.”


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