Joshua Hassan, the National Chairman of the Nigeria National Polio Plus Committee (NNPPC), recently discussed the upcoming National Polio Day with a group of journalists, including IGHO OYOYO. He emphasized the commitment of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners to globally end polio by 2026. Here are the key points from the interview:leadership reports
What is World Polio Day about?
- October 24 is a significant day for raising awareness about polio eradication efforts. It’s an opportunity to highlight the importance of vaccination to protect children from devastating diseases. The vaccination is typically administered to children aged five and below.
How has Nigeria’s journey been to exit the polio epidemic?
- To be declared polio-free, a country must have no reported polio cases for at least three years. Nigeria had a setback in 2017 when new cases were reported in Borno, leading to a reset of the three-year countdown. By early 2020, Nigeria was declared polio-free, and Africa also achieved polio-free status. Other countries with recent cases must complete three years without new cases to be declared free.
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How much has been spent on polio eradication?
- Polio eradication efforts involve numerous organizations and individuals contributing resources. Rotary, WHO, UNICEF, Dangote, Bill and Melinda Gates, and many others have invested both funds and in-kind support. The goal is the good health of children, and there is collaboration rather than competition among stakeholders.
Are there still polio strains in Nigeria?
- Yes, there are cases of vaccine-derived polio virus, primarily in northern Nigeria, specifically Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, and Katsina. These areas face challenges in combating this virus.
What is the committee doing to address the challenges in these states?
- The committee works with partners, and various stakeholders are actively involved in responding to cases. To encourage and acknowledge their hard work, awards are presented to individuals and organizations that excel in vaccination efforts.
What are the major challenges in the region?
- Insecurity and accessibility pose significant challenges. In some areas, insecurity hampers surveying and immunization efforts. The presence of bandits and kidnappers in places like Kaduna and Zamfara has affected operations.
Are insecurity and surveying issues affecting immunization?
- Yes, both insecurity and accessibility issues impact surveying and immunization efforts. It is challenging to conduct surveys in insecure areas, and sometimes, even using a phone can be risky. However, efforts are made to reach and vaccinate every child.
How many countries still have the wild poliovirus?
- Currently, only Afghanistan and Pakistan still have cases of the wild poliovirus. There has been a notable decrease in cases compared to the previous year, indicating progress.
Is there still a polio threat?
- The threat primarily comes from the vaccine-derived polio virus. The solution is continued immunization.
What has been the response of Nigerians to polio eradication efforts?
- The response from Nigerians has been positive, and progress has been made. While challenges remain, there is a strong commitment to ensuring that every child is reached and vaccinated.
Is it possible to completely eradicate polio despite security challenges?
- Yes, it is possible to eradicate polio through vaccines. It is crucial to continue vaccination efforts to achieve complete eradication.
Is there a targeted period for achieving polio eradication?
- The global target for polio eradication is from 2022 to 2026. Efforts are aimed at significantly reducing polio cases by the end of 2026. Routine immunizations will continue, and the hope is to declare polio completely eradicated by the end of December 2026.
Should there be a national law regarding polio vaccination?
- It is essential to have laws that prioritize the well-being of children, who are the future of the country. Laws can help address issues like ignorance, resistance to medicine, and cultural beliefs that hinder vaccination efforts. The key is to do the best for children’s health.