The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) on Friday said Nigeria was still at risk of Polio epidemic as Nigeria awaits to be formally certified polio-free in August.
Its Executive Director, Dr Faisal Shuaib, spoke at a Zoom meeting to celebrate the new status with some donor partners and stakeholders in Abuja.
Shuaib, however, assured Nigerians that all actions, particularly vaccination would be intensified to avert a resurgence.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the African Regional Commission for Certification of Polio Eradication (ARCC), an organ of World Health Organisation (WHO), accepted Nigeria’s Wild Polio Virus Free Documentation after 30 years, on June 18.
Shuaib said though, the certification meant that there was no wild polio virus anywhere in Nigeria, it did not mean the work was over.
According to him, the virus can still be imported from other endemic countries.
“As a matter of fact, even, the earlier the work starts, because we have to maintain this status.
”This means we have to continue to give our kids the vaccination that they need against the virus, and all the other vaccine preventable diseases.
READ ALSO: Nigeria, Cameroon declared polio-free
”We should not forget that we still have Afghanistan and Pakistan that are endemic for wild polio viruses, which means there is still a potential that these viruses may be imported into Nigeria.
“We live in a global village, you can see how COVID-19 spread so fast from China, by the same token, we could have wild polio virus spread from these two endemic countries,” he said.
Shuaib said though donor partners would withdraw funding, Nigeria have enough to sustain ongoing vaccination across the country, including hard to reach communities.
He said government was gradually taking responsibility for health.
The executive director said: “The country will continue to make sure that we put in place all of the strategies.
”We will continue to look everywhere to make sure that there is no child anywhere in Nigeria that will be paralysed from the wild polio virus.”
Shauib said that the National Assembly had committed enough resources to make sure that the agency has enough stock of all the vaccine needed and the operations needed to convey the vaccines to remote areas.
He said that the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) had also been signed into law and would be released in a few weeks for funding to be partitioned for vaccines.
“It’s an amazing opportunity that we have to make sure that we do not see a resurgence of the wild polio virus, an opportunity to make sure we protect all our kids from vaccine preventable diseases.
“With the support we are getting from state governors and traditional institutions, I think we are in a better place than were we are a few years ago.
”There is a steady increase in coverage.
“In 2015, we had 40 per cent routine immunisation but, in 2018, it increased to 57 per cent, we are at 67 per cent now,” he said.
The executive secretary said that the certification would take place from Aug. 24 to Aug. 28, when a formal certificate would be awarded to the President.
He said the skills garnered from the polio eradication programme were being deployed to eradicate the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country.
Earlier, Dr Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of Health, said the declaration of Nigeria as polio free did not mean the work had finished as the country was being threatened by COVID-19.
Ehanire said that all stakeholders involved in the eradication of polio would not rest until Coronavirus was defeated.
“We face a new enemy. There is the Coronavirus out there.
“After we defeated the polio virus, there is no time for rest.
NPHCDA will also be in the battle to ensure that Nigeria is kept safe from another virus threatening the world,” Ehanire said.
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