The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA, has assured that from middle of 2019, the nation would no longer take samples of blood to Dakar, Senegal, for testing for yellow fever, but own its own laboratory.
Executive-Director of the agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib, made the pledge in Abuja on Monday at a briefing on Lassa fever vaccination campaign in the country.
The promise followed demand from a professor of virology and former Vice-Chancellor of Redeemers University, Oyewale Tomori, that the nation, either through the support of World Health Organizations and other partners, or not, unfailingly establish a laboratory for testing for the disease by the middle of 2019.
Oyewole said it was embarrassing that in spite of the fact that Nigeria could not produce a dose of vaccine would have to travel as far as Dakar, Senegal, to test for Yellow fever.
Tomori, who chairs Biovaccine Board, the company commissioned by the Federal Government for local production of vaccines in the country, and a board member of Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI), assured that the nation and development partners would ensure the disease is defeated in the country.
In his remark, Shuaib said government would not fail in ensuring that people of the nation are immune against the disease by period vaccination.
He blamed past leaders for failing to put adequate measures in place, such as the laboratory and vaccine production, to tame disease outbreaks in the country.
Following yellow fever vaccinations that had taken place in phases across the country in recent past, the executive-director said: “Currently, there is an ongoing third (3”) Preventive Mass Vaccination Campaign with a target age group of nine months 44 years in Sokoto, Federal Capital Territory, Plateau and some LGAs not covered in the last vaccination campaign in Niger and Kebbi. The vaccination began on the 22nd November 2018 and is expected to last till the 1st of December, 2018.”
“The recent report from Edo state about a fever of unknown origin is also being investigated. Tests done at laboratories in Nigeria have shown that nine of the samples tested positive for Yellow Fever and as such, samples have been forwarded to Dakar, Senegal for continuation. In order to quickly respond to the outbreak, The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Epidemiology team, The World Health Organization and other international development partners are working together to rapidly conduct a comprehensive investigation and respond appropriately to the situation on ground.
“We would like to reassure the general public that all the agencies involved are working swiftly to contain the spread and prevent further outbreaks. The Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health, NPHCDA and partner organizations are fully committed towards the implementation of the Elimination of Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) Strategy by 2026 to guarantee the protection, prevention and containment of the Yellow Fever outbreaks in our communities.”
Meanwhile, this campaign is being supported by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and United Nations Children Fund, (UNICEF)
The development partners said in a statement made available to this newspaper that 26.2 million people, including children and adult, will be vaccinated against the disease.
The exercise, which the organizations said is the “second phase of its biggest-ever yellow fever campaign” seeks to establish high population immunity, nationwide.
“This step of the campaign, which is funded by Gavi will run from 22 November to 1 December 2018 and will target 18.6 million children and adults in Plateau, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and Borno states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
“The vaccination will be for people within nine months to 44 years cohort. Parents are advised to avail themselves and their children to partake in the vaccination; The vaccine is free, safe and effective,” Dr Joseph Oteri, Director of Special Duties at NPHCDA was quoted as saying in the statement.
“To ensure this phase of the vaccination campaign runs smoothly, the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with WHO with support from GAVI, has trained and deployed Management Support Teams (MST). The MSTs are overseeing preparations in the run-up to the campaign and, in partnership with WHO yellow fever experts, will act as supervisors and provide technical assistance during the campaign itself.
“Nigeria is on the front line in the global battle against yellow fever,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Routine immunisation coverage remains dangerously low, as shown by the latest outbreak, which is why this campaign is so important to protect the vulnerable. While this campaign will save lives, we need to focus our efforts on the best long-term solution – improving routine immunisation coverage so every child is protected, preventing outbreaks from happening in the first place…
“Nigeria is one of 50 partners pursuing the Eliminate Yellow Fever Epidemics (EYE) strategy. Steered by WHO, Gavi and UNICEF, the strategy seeks to protect at-risk populations, prevent international spread and contain outbreaks rapidly,” said the release.