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As the traditional head of Gagi community, Sokoto State, Northwest Nigeria, Alhaji Sani Umar Jabbi (Sarkin Yakin Gagi), insists that every child in his district must be vaccinated with the life-saving polio vaccine.

Leveraging his position, he has taken it upon himself to sensitize residents of the community about the importance of participating in immunization activities. 

Alhaji Sani says he is supporting the immunization campaign because people have seen first-hand how the vaccines prevent children from being maimed or killed by polio. 

“As a district head, I have the responsibility of sensitizing and mobilizing my community for immunization activities,” he says. 

“It is said that prevention is better than cure. Unlike other childhood diseases, that can be treated and cured, polio, either kills or disfigure (paralysed) a child. Parents and guardians must always take advantage of immunization campaigns to vaccinate their children against childhood-killer diseases.”

Alhaji Sani insists that every child under five must receive the vaccination against circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVPVD2) to safeguard them from being disabled and to stop the transmission of polio disease in Nigeria.

The Government of Nigeria, with the support of World Health Organization (WHO), and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) as well as partners, have finalized the second round of the polio vaccination campaign in Sokoto state.

According to WHO, immunization is the most important way to keep people safe from vaccine-preventable diseases like polio, measles and others. 

The Supplementary Immunization Activity (SIA) is an outbreak response following the cVPVD2 cases detected in Sokoto and Zamfara states. 

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The mass campaign aims to interrupt the circulation of poliovirus by immunizing every child under five years of age with two doses of the oral polio vaccine. 

The SIAs are one of the four pillars of eradicating the disease. However, supplementary immunization is intended to complement, not replace, routine immunizations (RI).

Furthermore, the campaign was extended to Kebbi state because it shares boundaries with Sokoto and Zamfara and forms part of the national borders of Benin Republic and Niger. 

The SIA campaigns were conducted in the three states from 5 to 8 November 2022 and targeted to vaccinate about 5 million under-five children with the novel oral polio vaccine type 2 (nOPV2). 

In Sokoto State, more than 1.7 million children were intended to be covered with the life-saving vaccine.

Paying heed

Heeding the call, a young mother of two, Mrs Zalihatu Abubakar, residing in Gagi community, says she always takes action whenever there is a call for immunization campaigns. 

“I know the importance of immunization, I present my children to the vaccinators whenever they come knocking on my door during the house-to-house vaccination campaigns. I also ensure I take them to the health facility for their routine immunization when due. 

My children are now protected against polio and I am happy because I don’t want them deformed. Vaccination has helped our children to remain healthy, the vaccine is very good as it has strengthened our children and given the children strong protection against sickness” she says.

Buttressing the importance of the SIA campaign, the Incident Manager, Sokoto State Emergency Operation Center (EOC), Dr Abdulrahman Ahmad,   says, “We conducted the vaccination drive to strengthen the immunity of the children to stop transmission of  cVPVD2 in the state and country at large.

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He noted that the state had detected 21 cVPVD2 cases.

“The SIA plays a vital role in interrupting the spread of cVPVD2 cases in the state and Nigeria. Sokoto state need to mount two quality outbreak responses within two months to stop the cVDPV2 transmission.”

Dr Ahmad also commended WHO for the vital role the organization is playing to keep polio at bay in the country. 

“WHO is a key player in ensuring that immunization activities are conducted. They have supported the immunization exercise through planning, training, micro plan development, house-to-house vaccination, data management and daily review meetings at wards, LGA and state levels,” he says.

Additionally, the WHO State coordinator,  Mr Ibrahim Sani, said community participation has been a vital strategy employed by WHO and partners to ensure no child is being missed during the campaign.

He says deploying the “vaccinating every missed opportunity” tag as a driver for the campaign highlights the WHO innovative approach to engage mature, influential women from the community, and community leaders who will have the responsibility of tracking and ensuring vaccination of children missed either due to none compliance or child absenteeism. 

In security-compromised settlements in the state, government is engaging the local vigilantes to ensure the safety of vaccinators in reaching eligible children, he said.

Although Nigeria has eradicated the Wild PolioVirus (WPV), the country is still saddled with the cVPVD2. To interrupt the transmission of the disease, WHO with funding from GPEI partners, has been supporting the government in carrying out SIA campaigns across the country. 

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Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO) – Nigeria.