History was made on Monday November 12, 2012, when the Delta State government immunised 2,000 internally displaced children aged between 2-5 years with 2,000 doses of the pneumococcal vaccine.
The event, first of its kind in Nigeria, was in partnership Pfizer Nigeria, the World Health Organisation, Rotary International, the Medical Women Association of Nigeria, UNICEF and other partners as part of activities to herald this year's World Pneumonia Day with the theme "Fight Pneumonia, Save A Child".
The vaccines were procured through the State's Ministry of Health, to vaccinate the children simultaneously at the relief camps across the state as one of the strategies aimed at improving the immunisation coverage and prevention of death from preventable childhood diseases in the State.
During the flag off at the Internally Displaced Persons Camp at the Institute of Continuing Education, ICE, along Victor Odogwu Crescent in Oshilmili South Local Government Area, Asaba, the Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan Delta said the initiative was part of a strategy to reach every child at risk of pneumonia.
"We have chosen to mark this day by identifying with a group of persons that as at now is very susceptible to pneumonia. These are the internally displaced persons. Over 300,000 persons were displaced by the flooding and even though we could only bring in 35,000-40,000 into the various camps, among them are children under 5 years who constitute 30 percent of the population that falls into the age bracket that can be affected by pneumonia."
The Governor said the strategy to reach every child was starting from the camps out of belief that immunisation would drastically cut down the number of deaths from pneumonia.
"I want to thank Pfizer who has made it possible for us to get these vaccines at a highly subsidised cost. I'm glad we are the first state to key into this programme and I want to assure you as a responsive government that is medically very conscious we will ensure the maximum benefit is derived," Uduaghan observed.
In his statement, the State Commissioner for health, Dr. Joseph Otumara, said the initiative is one of the strategies aimed at improving immunization coverage towards prevention of deaths from preventable childhood disorders in the State.
"Today we will be immunising about 2,000 children with the vaccine that has been registered by NAFDAC. Delta state is the first government that has decided to take the future of children in their hands. We want to do it for the sake of these 2,000 children displayed by the recent floods.
"If high immunisation coverage is achieved, then every child in the susceptible age group will be protected. If all eligible children between 0-59 months are vaccinated in a community, then the herd immunity of that community becomes high and interruption of preventable childhood killer diseases is achieved," he said.
In his contribution, Country Manager, Pfizer Nigeria and East African Region, NEAR, Mr. Enrico Liggeri, said the main purpose was to vaccinate children of different ages and prevent them from pneumonia now and in the future.
"What we are doing is immunisation and this is the first State in Nigeria to get the children immunized against pneumonia. Pneumococcal immunisation was registered in Nigeria 2010, but it was very expensive - about $50 dollars, but the price is going as low as $20 dollars and that's why we are here today. It will prevent them for a life time.
"Pneumonia kills 1.4 million people everyday in the world and it is the second commonest cause of death in Nigeria, so what we do here in Nigeria is basically to kick-start the programme because this will be the first government programme in Delta state calling Pfizer and doing a large scale immunization," Liggeri observed.
In 2011, 7,889 children aged 0-59 months were managed in the Delta State government health institutions, out of which 6,641 were out-patients while 1,248 were in-patients.
Between January-September 2012, a total of 4,115 cases of pneumonia were recorded in the State - 3,586 as out-patients and 529 as in-patients. Nigeria currently bears 20 percent of the global burden of pneumonia.