BY OJO SAMSON AYOMIDE
Alhaji Safejo Amogbon (fondly called Baba – Father in the Yoruba language) is an octogenarian (89 years). Notwithstanding his age, he still mobilizes people in his community (Surulere-Safejo, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State) to present their children for vaccination.
He is one of the community’s pillars of support on health and education, and he leverages his years of experience to educate parents about the importance of vaccination, especially against poliovirus.
“I have seen people crippled by the poliovirus. It is a great relief that the disease has been eradicated. We need to continue vaccinating our children so that the disease does not come back.
It is good for the elders and traditional leaders to draw from their years of experience and get involved in raising awareness about the importance of immunization activities to younger people,” he says.
Knowing the significance of vaccination, Baba Amogbon had offered a section of his compound to house a Health Care Centre (Basiri Health Centre) for 13 years before it was moved to its permanent site.
Leaving no child behind
Although Nigeria has been certified wild poliovirus-free, the country is still battling the circulating variant poliovirus type 2 (cVPV2).
To ensure that the nation eradicates all forms of the poliovirus, the Government of Nigeria, in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO), and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), as well as partners, recently concluded the second round of the polio vaccination campaign in Ekiti State, south-west Nigeria.
The four-day mass campaign covered 540,369 children under five years of age in the 16 Local Government Areas (LGA) of the state. It aimed to interrupt the transmission of poliovirus by vaccinating every eligible child in the locality with two doses of the oral polio vaccine. The first phase of the outbreak response (OBR) was conducted in December 2022 and the second in January 2023.
The Supplementary Immunization Activity (SIA), is an outbreak response following the cVPVD2 cases detected in Lagos and Oyo states. Although the SIAs are one of the four pillars of eradicating the disease, it is intended to complement, not replace, routine immunizations (RI).
During the mopping-up exercise to ensure that no child was missed, Jeptha Salami, a 28-month-old boy was among the children discovered and vaccinated by the supervisory team during one of the mop-up days; ensuring all eligible children in the Surulere-Safejo community, Basiri ward in Ado-Ekiti have been vaccinated.
“Please come here, my son is yet to be vaccinated, hailed Jeptha’s mother (Mrs Salami Precious), as she sighted the team.
The 36 years old mother of two had swiftly risen from the ground of her petty store where she lay with her son to receive the vaccination team.
“My son had not received his vaccine because I have been out of town. I called out because I understand he needs to receive the vaccine to be protected against polio. Having heard from health workers and jingles on the radio about the disease, I don’t have an excuse for him to miss the vaccination as it is free and safe,” she says.
Commending the state’s commitment towards protecting all the eligible children, the State Immunization officer (SIO), Mrs Christianah Ajimati says Ekiti’s last reported case of cVPV2 was in 2005.
She highlighted that effective social mobilization, availability of the vaccine, cold chain system and supportive supervision, enhanced the quality of the vaccination campaign, especially in the hard-to-reach areas.
Additionally, the WHO State Coordinator, Dr Akinola Fatiregun, stated that the OBR campaign was necessitated by the cVPV2 outbreak in Lagos State.
He explained that a similar campaign was implemented in Lagos State and her catchment areas (including Ekiti State) as a prompt measure to curb further spread.
“To guarantee quality vaccination campaigns, WHO supported the state with training and timely direct payment of logistics to implementers, production of data tools, and supervision of the operations room for data collation and timely dissemination of feedback for action,” he says.
In 2022, Nigeria reported 46 cases of cVDPV2 from Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) and 85 cVDPV2 isolates from environmental sites. To interrupt the transmission of the disease, WHO with funding from GPEI partners, has been supporting the government in carrying out SIA campaigns across the country.