FG launches new mechanism to reach children yet to receive routine vaccine

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) on Monday unveiled the Zero Dose Learning Hub (ZDLH) to successfully identify and reach the millions of children who have not yet received a single routine immunisation.

At the launch in Abuja, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, said that ZDLH would provide a framework for Nigeria to promptly generate evidence strategies that can be leveraged to measure, monitor and reach zero dose children and missed communities in which they live.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that ZDLH is being implemented by the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), working as a consortium with the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN ), with support from Gavi through the NPHCDA.

Shuaib expressed gratitude to GAVI, AFENET, and other partners for their support in enhancing vaccination coverage for COVID-19, routine immunization, and accessibility to comprehensive primary healthcare services.

“The government acknowledges the leadership provided by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in prioritising health in his renewed hope agenda.

“In July 2017, Nigeria declared an emergency concerning routine immunization in response to the alarming findings of the 2016/2017 MICS/NICS report, which revealed a distressing Penta 3 coverage rate of only 33 per cent.

“The government established the National Emergency Routine Immunization Coordination Centre (NERICC) to address the issue.

“Since the inception of NERICC, immunization coverage has substantially improved throughout the country, with the 2021 NICS report indicating a notable increase, with Penta 3 coverage standing at an encouraging 57 per cent,” he said.

He, however, said that the government acknowledged that it has not attained its designated goal in immunization coverage.

“The government has implemented a range of strategic interventions to address the multitude of challenges and obstacles that have hindered their efforts to establish an effective routine immunization system.

“These initiatives include Optimized Outreach Sessions (OOS), Optimisedv Integrated Routine Immunization Sessions (OIRIS), Routine Immunization Intensification, Quarterly Lot Quality Assurance Survey (LQAS) to access their progress, and other strategies that are gradually yielding positive outcomes,” he explained.

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions in routine immunization efforts, resulting in suboptimal coverage rates.

He, however, said that the government has emerged from this crisis with renewed determination and innovative approaches to fortify its immunization system.

“Our goal remains unwavering: to reach every eligible child and ensure that no child is left vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.

He said that the Zero Dose Learning Hub was not just a platform; “It’s a beacon of possibility, a testament to our dedication to reaching every child, and an affirmation of our unwavering belief in the power of vaccination.

“It represents a promise that no child will be left behind, no matter their circumstances or where they are born.

“The government aims to enhance the capabilities of individuals engaged in the administration of immunization services at both national and subnational levels through the learning hub.

“Our aim is to empower them to play an active role in diminishing the number of zero-dose children in Nigeria.

“The launch of the Zero Dose Learning Hub is a milestone moment in the global fight against preventable diseases.

He urged everyone to remember that this was not just about data and statistics; it was about lives saved, futures protected, and communities strengthened.

“It’s about a parent’s relief, a healthcare worker’s dedication, and a child’s smile,” he said.

The NPHCDA boss expressed its deepest gratitude to all partners, healthcare workers, advocates, and communities they serve.

He urged everyone to continue working together to ensure that every child was protected through vaccination.

The Regional Technical Coordinator, AFENET, Dr Patrick Nguku, said that Nigeria was leading the pack of countries with the highest number of zero-dose children globally

Nguku said that the learning hub was an innovative approach to advance the uptake of research and evidence to improve immunization policies and programming in the country.

“Nigeria so far is the fourth country to implement the zero dose hub joining the likes of Mali, Uganda and Bangladesh

“The hub will be implemented in two phases with . Bauchi Borno Kano and Sokoto as priority states based on certain criteria’s bothering on insecurity, and presence of IDP camps amongst other factors,” he said.

Also representing the UNICEF country representative in Nigeria, the Chief of Health, Dr Edwardo Celades, said that the zero dose learning hub was a critical initiative to improve immunization coverage and equity in the country.

NAN reports that the Nigerian government launched the GAVI Zero Dose Learning Hub, in partnership with Gavi, the vaccine alliance.

Source: News Agency of Nigeria