Nigeria seeks to resume production of yellow fever vaccine

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Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu says Nigeria is seeking the support of Global Alliance Vaccines Immunisation (GAVI) to resume the production of yellow fever vaccine.

Chukwu disclosed this in an interview on the outcome of the just concluded World Health Organisation African Regional Meeting on Polio held in Luanda, Angola.

He said that the country had also solicited support toward the introduction of new rotavirus and human papillomavirus vaccines.

The minister said that the support became necessary given the need to strengthen routine immunisation in the country.

Rotavirus vaccines protect children from rotaviruses, which are the leading causes of severe diarrhea among infants and young children, while human papillomavirus vaccine is used for the treatment of cervical cancer.

“What we discussed was to review the state of immunisation in Nigeria; the support that GAVI is giving to Nigeria; the possibility of introducing some additional new vaccines such as the router virus and the human papillomavirus vaccine for cancer of the cervix; and also the need to support local industries; we have at least one company that is WHO-prequalified as manufacturing syringes.

“GAVI says that there is room for them to be supported in terms of been patronised for their products. We also looked at the issue of Nigeria resuming the production of yellow fever vaccines; and again GAVI will be visiting Nigeria next one week or so;  we are going to hold discussions on whether they are going to give us some support to move towards being able to produce the yellow fever vaccine in Nigeria.’’

Chukwu expressed concern over the refusal by some Nigerians to accept the polio vaccine, but assured that government would strive towards the total elimination of polio.

He said WHO and other development partners were working toward reviewing the polio situation in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola and the Republic of Chad.

“Nigeria made its presentation, re-emphasising the new emergency plan for polio eradication in the country, the result so far this year shows that there is indeed a progressive downward trend in the number of cases that are being reported.

“In Oct., two cases were reported and that brought the total for this year to 101 cases of wild polio virus transmission; but since Nov. we have not had any single report, which underscores the fact that with improved surveillance, with the new plan, we progressively reached the peak in July.

“But now that we are enjoying the benefits of that work, the numbers of cases is dropping and we expect that it is going to drop to zero.

“And of course the target as Mr President declared after meeting with the endemic states, endemic local governments and stakeholders in Abuja, is that certainly Nigeria is looking forward to 2013 as when we should achieve zero transmission of polio.’’

According to the minister, delegates at the meeting discussed the required funding mechanism, gaps as well as what was on ground with regards to vaccinators and how well such vaccinators were being supervised and whether or not their welfare needed to be improved.

Chukwu said that emphasis was made on the need to strengthen routine immunisation, stressing that the Midwives Services Scheme (MSS) was one of Nigeria’s approach to boosting routine immunisation.

Chukwu appealed to international development partners to support African countries financially, adding that the issue of not receiving supplies of vaccines even after payment had been made, remained a very critical factor.

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