The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says 16 states are lagging behind regarding polio vaccination and this could affect Nigeria’s chances of eradicating polio if nothing is done quickly.
The Chief Strategy Officer of the BMGF, Mark Suzman, said this during an interview with journalists in Abuja on Wednesday.
Suzman said for a country to be certified polio-free, it must not record any case of wild polio disease in three years.
He said September 2019 would make it three years since Nigeria reported any case of the disease, but advised governors not to be complacent.
The BMGF chief strategist said in some states, immunization had dropped to as low as 50 percent.
Suzman said, “The risk is that when we get so close and people don’t see cases (of polio), suddenly there is a slowdown on vaccination campaigns. The risk is that you need to keep vaccinating every child as long as there is any polio case anywhere in the world.
“We have seen in the last few months, unfortunately, some cases of very low immunization, lower than expected immunization rates.
“You can see a spread of some related polio and they can happen and we have seen in around 16 states in Nigeria in the last six months where we have seen vaccination rates drop sometimes to below 50 percent so we had a meeting with the governors’ forum and a strong commitment from the chairman that they would redouble their efforts to just make sure that we make that deadline.”
According to him, some southern states which traditionally have high immunization rates are also lagging behind.
Suzman admitted that states with high insecurity rates such as Borno and Yobe had problems of access but noted that he was hopeful that Nigeria would eradicate polio.
He added, “The 16 states are where we saw signs of potential outbreaks of circulating lower levels of immunity to polio. Not all of them represent failures in the vaccination campaigns. There are states where the penetration rates of the vaccination campaigns have been lower than we hope they could be included in some southern states where historically we have had much higher coverage rates but the 16 states are more of it.”
He said the Federal Government’s budget for health was not enough even as he lamented the money set aside for the fight against polio.
“The budget allocation for polio is a lot smaller than it should be. It has experienced a significant drop than in previous years,” Suzman said.
The Country Director, Paulin Basinga, said some mild cases of polio had already been recorded in Lagos, Jigawa and some other states but noted that they were not the wild strand of the disease.