The World Health Organization has announced that about 16.6 million children in Africa missed planned supplemental measles vaccine doses between January 2020 and April 2021 due to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Ms. Matshidiso Moeti, disclosed this during a virtual press conference facilitated by APO Group on Thursday.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Measles is highly contagious, requiring at least 95 percent immunisation coverage in the population to prevent outbreaks.
Yet coverage with the first dose of the measles-containing vaccine has stagnated at around 69 percent in the WHO African Region since 2013.
Only Seven countries in the region achieved 95 per cent measles-containing vaccine coverage in 2019.
The low measles coverage reflects a wider stagnation in routine immunisation in Africa that, in some countries, has been exacerbated by the pandemic and related restrictions.
Some diseases, including tetanus, diphtheria and yellow fever, require 90 per cent coverage in the population, yet rates in Africa remained stuck at around 70 to 75 per cent over the last decade.
Around nine million children in the African region miss life-saving vaccines, each year and one in five children remain unprotected from vaccine-preventable diseases, which claim the lives of over 500, 000 children under 5 years in Africa every year.
Moeti said that the outbreaks were largely due to low routine immunisation coverage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said eight African countries reported major measles outbreaks that affected tens of thousands during the aforementioned period.
She added that 15 African countries delayed measles immunization drives in 2020 as they dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although seven of these countries have now completed the campaigns, the remaining eight still poses a risk of major measles outbreaks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic which has led to over three million deaths globally left gaps in routine immunization coverage in the Africa region.
“Recent outbreaks of measles, but also yellow fever, cholera and meningitis, all point to worrying gaps in immunization coverage and surveillance in Africa,” Moeti said.
As we fight COVID-19, we cannot leave anyone dangerously exposed to preventable diseases, she said, while urging countries to double down on essential health services, including life-saving vaccination campaigns.
Moeti said the WHO was working with African countries to ensure that routine immunization service delivery was scaled up to close the gaps created at the start of the pandemic.
“This includes providing policy guidance, helping strengthen health systems, training health care professionals, reinforcing disease surveillance and the use of data for action, as well as assisting with periodic mass vaccination campaigns for a range of vaccine-preventable diseases,” she added.
She explained that integrated action was needed to increase and expand access to immunization as part of primary health care.
She, however, added that this must be backed by a well-trained workforce, strong surveillance, health information systems, national leadership, management and coordination.
“We must also engage more with community leaders and influencers to ensure that everyone understands the life-saving, transformative promise of vaccines,” Moeti advised.
Prolonged cough could lead to tuberculosis, says expert
A public health physician, Dr Shallom Oni, has advised Nigerians with over weeks’ cough to seek medical attention.
Oni, at the unveiling of Herbacough cough syrup made by Dexa Medica, in Lagos said more awareness was needed for people to know when to stop using medication and when they should visit the hospital for a test.
“It is important that people are enlightened so that they won’t just keep on loading themselves with cough syrups for two or three weeks. Every Nigerian is advised to visit a doctor for a proper check if they have a prolonged cough. You’ve been taking cough syrup and other medication and you are not getting relived, and the cough seems to be recurring, you need to see a doctor if it persists so that you can be screened. This is vital to ensure that it is not a cough that has to do with some other chronic illnesses.
“There is the need to raise the awareness on this so that people will not just be using cough syrups for the wrong ailment. The government is trying on the tuberculosis awareness, the private sector must join in enlightening the people on the need to present early in hospitals,” he said.
The firm’s Country Manager, Nigeria and West Africa, Dhanang Anggoro, said the herbal syrup was an improvement from other brands existing in the country.
He said, “Currently, there are many herbal and chemical cough medicines that have been provided in the market. However, the many types of cough medicine make it difficult for people to find what cough medicine to consume.”
“Another problem that causes consumers to worry about choosing cough medicine is that they often have difficulty recognising the type of cough they have. Herbacough is processed with an extraction process to find a specific fraction in the form of reconyl active substance.
“Aside from having a good taste, the cough syrup also works to suppress coughs, as an anti-inflammatory and it also relieves the respiratory tract.”
Why NAFDAC Approved Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine For Use In Nigeria
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) said it has approved the use of Pfizer-BioTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in Nigeria.
The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, who disclosed this on Friday, during a virtual meeting, explained that the vaccine was for emergency use authorisation.
According to her, a review of the vaccine is possible pending information gathering from the usage.
“We have approved Pfizer BioTech Vaccine for possible use in the country. Our COVID-19 vaccine team must carefully review it to make sure that the science behind it is well understood, and also in accordance with our own regulation,” she said.
Adeyeye explained that the vaccine was approved based on different mechanisms known to the agency while noting that the approval was not a full approval but within the period of getting people vaccinated and gathering of data about the possible adverse effect following immunization.
The DG stated that data gathering on vaccine was not limited to NAFDAC, saying that the agency belonged to an organisation called International Coalition of Medicine Regulatory Authorities( ICMRA).
“We belong to ICMRA, which is a global gathering of regulatory agencies across the country, where we share our experiences, like that of Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine,” she said.
On storage, the DG said that the country has what it takes to store the vaccine effectively.
“We have the capability because the freezer temperature is now -30 degrees unlike when it was -80 to -60 degrees temperature. So, the storage is not an issue in Nigeria,” Adeyeye explained.
She also informed that the agency was reviewing the Johnson and Johnson vaccine for COVID-19.
Close international airports, increase COVID-19 testing, experts tell FG
In a bid to avert the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have advised the Federal Government to close international airports for two weeks and increase COVID-19 testing capacities.
The President, President Academy of Medicine Specialties of Nigeria, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, in a statement on Tuesday said, the low-level transmission in the country was largely due to the lockdowns going on in Europe and some countries.
He said, “There is the urgent need to enforce the use of PTF regulations of social distancing, washing of hands, the use of hand sanitisers and the wearing of facemasks.
“In view of the current trends regarding the third wave, The Academy of Medicine Specialties and our Rapid-Response initiative group of the Academy of Medicine Specialties feel that we should close our international airports to all flights for at least two weeks. This third wave is affecting not only India but France, Germany and Italy. The Federal Government should be proactive.
“Nigeria cannot afford to have a third wave. Only a small percentage of the population have been vaccinated. Furthermore, all the theories speculated for our immunity such as heat, sun, and other endemic immunities also applies to India,” he said.
Also, a medical virologist at Adeleke University, Dr Oladipo Kolawole, in an interview with our correspondent said, Nigerians should be warned to adhere strictly to the non-pharmaceutical measures to prevent COVID-19.
“Everyone needs to be careful to avoid something like the third wave of Spanish influenza between 1918/19. However, testing has reduced, so we may not accurately picture what is going on. More COVID-19 tests should be carried out to understand the epidemiological trend to know the circulating variants in the country. International travels should be well monitored and coordinated, putting in mind countries affected by the third wave as it demands,” he said.
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