Abuja — The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has revealed that Nigeria is not only among the 20 sub- Saharan countries with unvaccinated children for measles, but has the highest figure so far.
It added that though Nigeria is on track in its 2019 preparations, it is yet to introduce the necessary second dose in the national vaccination schedule, thereby putting millions of infants a year at higher risk of measles during their childhood.
In a statement released by UNICEF Communications Specialist, Dr. Geoffrey Njoku, the Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Henrietta Fore, said UNICEF has partnered other organisations into bringing down the cost of measles vaccine and helping countries identify underserved areas and unreached children.
She said "In low- and middle-income countries, the situation is critical. In 2017, for example, Nigeria had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose at nearly 4 million. It was followed by India (2.9 million), Pakistan and Indonesia (1.2 million each), and Ethiopia (1.1 million).
"Worldwide coverage levels of the second dose of the measles vaccines are even more alarming. Of the top 20 countries with the largest number of unvaccinated children in 2017, nine have not introduced the second dose.
"Twenty-countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not introduced the necessary second dose in the national vaccination schedule, putting over 17 million infants a year at higher risk of measles during their childhood.
UNICEF, with partners such as the Measles and Rubella Initiative and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is helping address this measles crisis by: Negotiating vaccine prices, the cost of the measles vaccine is now at an all-time low. It is helping countries identify underserved areas and unreached children; procuring vaccines and other immunization supplies; Supporting supplementary vaccination campaigns to address gaps in routine immunization coverage; Working with relevant countries to introduce the second dose of the measles vaccine in the national immunization schedule.
"Cameroon, Liberia and Nigeria are on track to do so in 2019. Introducing innovations like the use of solar power and mobile technologies to maintain vaccines at the right temperature."
He added. measles is far too contagious and as such, "It is critical not only to increase coverage but also to sustain vaccination rates at the right doses to create an umbrella of immunity for everyone."