The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, says the number of children who lack access to polio vaccines has dropped to about 100,000.
Adewole said this while fielding questions from reporters at the annual meeting of the African Regional Certification Commission for Poliomyelitis Eradication in Abuja on Monday.
The minister said the North-East, especially Borno State, constituted a large portion of inaccessible areas.
He said, “For now, less than 30 per cent of the area is inaccessible. So, the military is helping us and we will continue. There are a few settlements left that the military will work on and we are hopeful that this year, we will get there.”
Asked when Nigeria would be certified polio-free, he added, “If you don’t record a case in three years, then you are free. We will wait until we have access to every settlement.”
When asked how many children lacked access, he said, “Fewer than 100,000.”
Adewole said so far, Nigeria had not recorded a single case of polio in 18 months.
The minister added, “The government of Nigeria will continue to provide all the required human and material resources to finish the job of polio eradication. We therefore appeal to our donors to continue to support us so that we can achieve our collective goal of a polio-free Nigeria.”
Also speaking, the Chairperson of the ARCC, Dr Rose Leke, said there was a need to strengthen routine immunisation.
She said, “There is insecurity but Nigeria has done a lot. The area was vast and they’ve been able to go in little by little and the gap is closing and now, there are just about 102,000 children that cannot be reached.
“Like the minister said, a lot still has to be done because we must be sure that there is no polio in these areas. Before, we were assuming there was no polio until four cases came out of there.
“We also have to ensure that it is not imported from any part of Africa.”
Speaking with reporters, the Chairman, Expert Review Committee for Polio Eradication and Routine Immunisation in Nigeria, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, said the number of children that were not being immunised had reduced.
The former vice-chancellor of the Redeemer’s University, however, said until every area would be accessible, polio could not be said to have been eradicated.
He said, “Our biggest challenge is the Niger Republic border. That is where the problem is. The main problem is even on the Niger side. For security reasons, we cannot reach there.”
Tomori said it could take between eight to 10 years before Nigeria could produce its own vaccines.
The Punch News