By Bianca Iboma-Emefu 

Stakeholders at the 55th scientific conference and annual general meeting of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) have demanded immediate action for 6.2m children unvaccinated in Nigeria while also added that the figure had given the nation the highest rate of under-five mortality and the highest prevalence of zero-dose immunization worldwide.

The president-elect, PAN, Ekanem Ekure, stated this in Lagos at a 3-day conference tagged: Beyond Strategies and Goals: ‘Reaching every child with optimal care.’

Ekure said, “Nigeria has the highest burden of under-five deaths in the whole world and it is probably not too surprising when you consider that Nigeria has the highest zero-dose vaccine in the world.

“Over 2.5 million children are yet to be immunised. Children have to take vaccines, so, we are advocating for parents to ensure that children take the vaccine.

“Child abuse and starvation were issues preventing children from receiving the best care possible, and the association is prepared to leverage on enlightenment and advocacy to reach out to children across the nation.”

“Malnutrition is another thing we are looking at as an association. We have a lot of children who are getting malnourished and going to bed hungry. That is another area we need to work on to ensure our children survive and thrive.

On his part, immediate past president, PAN, Prof Olufemi Ogunride, said enhancing resource management in the country was crucial to mitigating the brain drain syndrome affecting the health sector in the country.

Ogunrinde said by the end of the conference the association’s paediatricians would undoubtedly be qualified to take on more supervisory responsibilities to curb health issues in the country.

“Despite the fact that Nigeria has joined the League of Nations that have successfully eradicated poliomyelitis, the devastating illness that causes lifelong paralysis.  It is still grappling with vaccine-preventable diseases.

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“Reasons given for this stark reality include: poor socioeconomic status, insecurity, and vaccine-hesitancy among many others. In order not to miss out on the immense benefits of vaccines, it is highly important for parents to understand their roles in immunizing their children. 

“Parents need to seek correct, accurate information about immunization and vaccines. They should also refrain from spreading rumours.”

Ogunrinde encouraged parents to take their children for immunization to minimize the risk of severe infections like tuberculosis and hepatitis B.

“The benefits of immunization go beyond children and health. Immunization has social and economic benefits. When children are healthy and remain free of vaccine-preventable diseases they grow into healthy and productive adults, parents are more productive; productive parents and adults create a healthy economy; and a healthy economy creates a healthy nation.”

He added that PAN recommends complete vaccination of every child born in Nigeria and those immigrating into Nigeria. “Vaccine schedules are recommended by experts in PAN, in collaboration with others in UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

Also, Nigeria Center For Diseases Control, (NCDC) boss, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa stated that the major causes of infants deaths includes zero dose vaccination of children.

Adetifa said that there are a huge number of causes that result in infant death or under-five mortality rates, infections are one of them and many of those infections are resistant to antibiotics. And this antibiotic resistance is a problem across all states. 

The Chief Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Muyi Aina stated, without prejudice to the lot of work that has gone into our health care system, we have an opportunity now to change the narrative.

“It is true that we have made a lot of investment with quite a substantial amount of focus by the government. Our outcomes are not where they are meant to be the quality of service especially at the primary healthcare that needs to be which can be addressed by better coordinating value for the effort made.”