Says, new variant can emerge at anytime.
For Nigeria to meet up with the 70% global target of COVID-19 vaccination coverage, the World Health Organization, WHO has emphasised the need for increased vaccination efforts.
The global health body while stressing the need to recognize that Nigeria still have some way to go to ending the pandemic said, nobody knows when another variant will emerge and for that, all hands must be on deck to ensure wide vaccination coverage.
Speaking during an assessment visit by the WHO team to the Garki Primary Healthcare Facility in Abuja on Thursday, the WHO Director, Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, Dr. Kate O’Brien said, she was delighted to see the turn out of mothers at the clinic with their children for Immunization.
Dr. O’Brien however stressed the need to create more awareness on the need for mothers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 saying, after interacting with the patients, she discovered that most of the patients at the facility were not vaccinated.
She said, ” You have all the materials and supply. What is left is for the people to understand how important it is to be vaccinated. This is important because we’ve seen the waves of variants. They come in every four months. Nobody know if there is going to be another variant. This is an opportunity for us to ensure that everybody is vaccinated.
“We therefore cannot afford to drop our guard. Regardless of where you live, or your age, you still need to get vaccinated when it’s your turn, with a complete course and booster dose if offered, and continue to take all the other preventive measures, both to protect yourself and others.
“Ending the pandemic requires us to get to much higher levels of vaccination efforts in key target groups and it must include getting all vulnerable individuals and health care workers vaccinated as a priority”.
Also, the WHO Regional Immunization Advisor for Africa, Dr Richard Mihigo who was fielding questions from journalists after accessing the Centre called on the federal government to heighten the surveillance system and increase coverage for polio vaccination to protect new born children.
Dr. Mihigo further stressed the need to address misinformation adding that part of their visit to Nigeria is to work with the authorities to understand the challenges and barriers hindering the acceptance of the vaccine.
“Additionally, misinformation and disinformation fuel mistrust. This puts health and lives at risk; undermines trust in science, institutions and health systems; and hinders the response to the pandemic.
“Whenever misinformation and disinformation clash with evidence-based science, another person is impeded from making the right decisions to protect their health.
“On our part, we are working with the authorities to understand the barriers and challenges. How the international community will work with government to overcome them”, he added.
Earlier, Professor Helen Rees, Independent Gavi board member said, it was unfortunate that a lot of children in Nigeria lacks access to vaccination.
She said, one of the most powerful tools Gavi is working on is to ensure that children in Nigeria and the African continent are protected.
She added that Gavi is supporting the Nigerian government in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines and increase routine immunization so that some of the commonest disease like diarrhea and
pneumonia are prevented.
Dr. Nneka Onwu, Director, Primary Healthcare system at the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency identified challenges to include, epileptic power supply for storage of vaccines and funding amongst others