The Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has introduced the Rotavirus vaccine to Routine Immunisation Schedule to avert over 110,000 deaths in children under the age of five in the next 10 years in Nigeria.
Rotavirus is a highly contagious virus that causes severe diarrhoeal disease amongst infants and children all over the world. It is the most frequent cause of severe diarrhoea in children, accounting for about 215, 000 deaths of the global 525,000 under-5 mortality attributed to diarrhoeal diseases each year More than 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries, including Nigeria.
Diarrhoeal disease due to Rotavirus is prevalent in all countries and nearly every child below the age of five remains at risk, with children under the age of two years being the most vulnerable.
Globally, it is estimated that diarrhoeal disease caused by rotavirus results on 25 million outpatient visits and 2 million admissions per year. Rota vaccine is proven to prevent diarrhoeal disease caused by Rotavirus.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire at the flag-off on Monday in Abuja, said the vaccine introduced in the EPI programme is of great importance because it is expected to directly avert over 110,000 death in under five in the next 10 years.
Ehanire who was represented by the Director of Public Health, Dr Alex Okoh, further disclosed that the Government of Nigeria with the support of donors and partners, especially GAVI has spent huge amounts to fulfil routine immunisation vaccines for Nigerian children, adding that this is because improving the health of Nigerian children remains a priority for this administration.
He said, “We, therefore, ask parents and caregivers to leverage this privilege to enable their children to be vaccinated against all vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Also for those who are PHC leaders at the sub-national level, and all healthcare workers across 40,000 PHC facilities for doggedness in ensuring that no Nigerian child is left behind in accessing potent vaccines and other services.
“Global vaccine alliance and other partners are doing a lot to support the country in ensuring Nigeria maintains its pride of place in relevant in the African continent, especially in the provision of basic cost-effective interventions for children and vulnerable populations.
“The government of Nigeria will continue to play its role for the overall success of all the strategies implemented in the health sector towards the achievement of universal health coverage.”
The Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib explained that the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine is a big investment due to its substantial economic impact and the number of lives that the country is going to save from the introduction.
Faisal further said it is projected that while reducing the associated morbidity and mortality from rotavirus infections, the rotavirus vaccine introduction has the potential to avert over 110,000 deaths over a 10-year period.
According to Faisal, “the vaccine is going to be given orally and will be administered concurrently with the existing Routine Immunization (RI) vaccines at 6 weeks, 10 weeks and 14 weeks respectively.
“The vaccine will be integrated with other diarrheal preventive strategies, such as exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life, Vitamin A supplementation, hand washing, sanitation, and other key household practices, case management including the use of zinc- ORS to prevent dehydration, continued feeding, and treatment services for diarrhoea and other childhood diseases.”
Faisal also said the launch is coinciding with the flag off of the African Vaccination Week which is a weeklong affair that improves access to basic Primary Health Care Services, routine immunisation, COVID-19 vaccination, deworming, Vitamin A supplementation, medical outreach services to our teaming rural populations.
The Country Representative of the World Health Organization, Dr Walter Kazadi Molumbo pointed out that the introduction of the Rotavirus Vaccine provides the opportunity to reduce the number of children dying every day from diarrhoea disease caused by rotavirus.
Molumbo also noted that the public health impact of rotavirus vaccine introduction has been demonstrated in several countries with as much as 50% of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases averted in some.
“The introduction should be part of a comprehensive strategy to control diarrhoeal diseases with the scaling up of both preventive and treatment packages Nigeria, being one of the four countries that harbour approximately half the global burden Stands to have enormous gains from the economic impact of this introduction.
“Immunisation remains the most cost-effective public health intervention. Unfortunately, the benefits of immunisation are unevenly shared. The immunisation agenda 2030 and the GAVI 5.0 strategy seek to address this gap by “Leaving no one behind with immunisation.
“This is also in keeping with the UN Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health of ending preventable deaths and ensuring health and wellbeing. Nigeria should continue to implement these strategies to address gaps in immunisation through the life course and prevent deaths.
“If we stop vaccination, deadly diseases will return, and when people are not vaccinated, infectious diseases that have become uncommon can quickly return,” Molumbo said.
A 31-year-old mother of three, Sarah Obiye Albert, who is currently nursing a 6-week-old baby expressed joy for the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine as she said she has paid nothing less than N5000 for a dose when she was nursing her other two children when they were still babies.
She appreciated the effort of the government to bring the vaccine to mothers for free and assured that she will encourage other mothers around her to take their children for to take vaccine so as to prevent their children from rotavirus-related diarrhoea and other child mortality diseases.