Up to 57 in 100 children aged under one got routine vaccines last year, up from 48 in 100 in 2015, according to recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics.
The uplift is a change from low level of Nigeria’s routine immunization coverage that has worried public health experts.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) attributes the increase in routine immunization coverage to interventions stepped in 18 low-performing mostly northern states of the country.
The interventions include emergency centres to coordinate routine immunization and optimize session of immunization put in place in the 18 states.
Between the last quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2019—a period of 18 months—the number of local government areas that had achieved 80% coverage rose from 11 to 139.
In the same period, 192 council areas reached at least 50%, up from 117. The number of council areas with coverage less than 49% reduced from 209 to 45.
And only one council area reported coverage less than 25% in the period.
Efforts to better the results have prompted a ramp up of mass vaccination of children in all parts of the country between April 22 and 28 for the African Vaccination Week.
At a press briefing, executive director of NPHCDA appealed to parents, guardians and caregivers to “avail themselves the unique opportunity of the week to make their children and wards available for immunisation.”
“All stakeholders at all levels must recognize immunisation as a pathway to universal health coverage.”
The Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative has been helping Nigeria fund immunisation for years, reaching up to 300 million children, according to the Alliance’s champion for immunisation in Africa, Awele Elumelu.
Immunization has also helped prevent up to 10 million deaths, she said at the joint briefing, adding, “There is still a lot of work to be done.”
“Vaccines for all cannot be done without collaboration with public and private sectors.”
Gavi has pledged $1 billion in support of immunisation over the next 10 years, a pledge the Nigerian government matched with $1.9 billion. The expectation is to see Nigeria begin solely funding its vaccine bill by the end of the period.
The concern over stronger immunisation comes amidst recent outbreaks of measles in high-income countries where vaccination schedules have relaxed over years, causing many children to miss out on vaccines and leaving them vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases as measles and rubella.
Data from the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund indicate up to 169 million children world over—around 21 million every year—missed out on the first dose of measles vaccine between 2010 and 2017, a sign of incomplete immunisation schedule.
In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide – up nearly 300 per cent from the same period last year.
An estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, a 22 per cent increase from the year before.
In 2017, Nigeria had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose, at nearly 4 million, followed by India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Ethiopia.