Monday, 3 December 2007

Immunization of children: the greatest achievement of all…

Immunization: gifting disease immunity to children of all social status


Experts have reiterated the fact that up to 3 million deaths are prevented yearly and 750, 000 children saved from disability if vaccination services are improved and maintained. The immunization of all children remains one of the greatest achievements of all humanitarian goals.

This assertion was made at the high level 1-day Conference session titled ‘immunization in Nigeria during the just concluded 34th edition of the international Medical Exhibition and Conference held at the Ocean View Hotel, Victoria Island Lagos.

Prof Chris Obionu of the college of medicine, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus Nigeria, gave the presentation for the day titled the ‘Value of vaccine’. According to him, vaccine-preventable diseases/ infections constitute a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, especially in developing countries like Nigeria. These diseases include: measles, yellow fever, smallpox, poliomyelitis, neonatal tetanus, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, and cerebrospinal meningitis. According to him, with future vaccine development, the number of preventable diseases will increase with future.

Though eradication of these diseases is possible through vaccination, there are concerns that vaccine coverage is falling. While a surprisingly large number of people are reluctant to accept vaccinations even when they are given free of charge, some governments view vaccines as a capital intensive venture instead of an investment and thus are reluctant to allocate funds to vaccination programmes. Thus there is no sustainable financial backing for the different vaccination programmes. He also lamented the ignorance of the value of vaccines which leads to squandering of immunization resources.

Outlining the values of vaccine for the individual, Prof Obionu said ‘Three million deaths are prevented yearly and 750,000 children are saved from disabilities. For the community, next to clean drinking water, vaccines are the most effective intervention in reducing and preventing the incidence of infectious diseases. While for the economy of the nation, its benefits are a decrease in: hospitalization, loss of productivity, and need for expensive treatment, permanent disabilities and disease outbreak.’

Prof Obionu maintained that government and individuals need to recognize the value of vaccines and disease prevention. The Government should recognize that a healthy population attracts investments and increase in productivity. He stressed that adequate investment in resources (human, material and financial resources) is needed for effective immunization. Applying the lessons learned from smallpox eradication in the use of other vaccines to fight diseases will enhance the value of vaccination.

He stressed that vaccines must be made available to all people no matter where they are in the world. Vaccines should be as highly valued as pure drinking water. With a motto such as “No vaccination, no achievement of the health-related MDGs”, the government will work harder towards achieving these goals. ‘Living in a world free of polio, and maybe measles, is not a dream. It can actually be realized’, he concluded.

By Adanma Ike.

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