All along, governments all over the word have continued to embark upon routine and special immunisation and vaccination campaigns aimed at fortifying the recipients of such vaccines against killer-diseases of public health importance. In Nigeria, immunisation campaigns have been taking place from time to time, and during which times children between the ages of zero and five years are immunised against specified diseases as well as pregnant women.
Generally, immunisations are aimed at preventing such killer-diseases as tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, yellow fever, the various types of hepatitis, measles, tetanus, whooping cough, among others. In particular, vaccinations are aimed at protecting people against most viral diseases that are always difficult to treat and cure, and which should be prevented from attacking people, especially infants and their mothers, as most of these diseases prevail among teenagers and toddlers.
Since the pioneering works of Edward Jenner, an eighteenth-century medico, gave birth to the idea of preventing diseases through vaccinations and immunisations beginning from 1796, millions of people worldwide have been benefitting from these immunisations and vaccinations even as the doses and other modalities are constantly espoused and guided by the researches of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation.
However, obvious obstacles have been characterising immunisations and vaccinations in Nigeria in particular and in many other countries of the world, with special reference to the under-developed countries of Africa and Asia.
One of such obstacles borders on religious beliefs and fanaticism. Through religious bigotry and erroneous beliefs, many parents and guardians deny their children and wards the life-saving vaccinations such children badly need to survive the scourge of many of these communicable diseases that may kill them if not prevented.
In the past, a popular columnist of a popular newspaper in Nigeria had even written in his column in the past that the act of vaccinating people against diseases was conceived by the white man in his neo-colonialist tendencies to make the average African man impotent so that he would not be able to produce more children since the cultures of the most of African society permit men to marry many wives and produce many children unlike what obtains in many parts of Europe and Asia. To such people, immunisation and vaccination is a neo-colonialist attribute of the West aimed at making people from weaker countries impotent in order to depopulate them.
Then, ignorance, physical and other natural phenomena also account for the non-realisation of effective immunisation campaigns and vaccination coverage in the country. Under such inhibiting conditions, there are areas that are always difficult to cover during immunisation exercises due to bad and inaccessible roads and in the riverine areas.
However, a recent research conducted on the issue made it clear that apart from the above identified obstacles that affect effective immunisation coverage in our midst, more obstacles come from the attitudes of the various categories of healthcare service providers themselves.
From the beginning, immunisations had been given free of charge as prescribed by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF. That was in the spirit of Edward Jenner who had experimented and introduced immunisation to mankind, and who had decided to make his findings known in his days and advocated that his mass immunisation discovery should serve to prevent diseases among the high and low in society, despite the pieces of advice to the contrary by many of his contemporaries in order to enable him to become rich, famous and powerful in the society then, as such people had wanted.
So, as time went on, many of the healthcare providers introduced monetisation in routine immunisations in administering vaccines on the children and their mothers, and employing one prank or the other in doing so hence today, many mothers still dodge to present their children for vaccination as they are compelled to part with their hard-earned money before their children are immunised. Such healthcare providers demand money to, according to them, provide needles, or to assure the involved mothers of benefitting from next appointment date and such other cooked-up lies told just to extort money from mothers whose children should be immunised free of charge, as provided by the relevant health authorities, national and international agencies.
What of the unnecessary rivalries between the various categories of health workers, and the use of non-trained associates, friends, relatives and sundry persons in the prosecution of vaccination duties that should be handled by only trained personnel? This is another obnoxious obstacle in the wheel of progress in this sphere, as abuses and unethical practices are often recorded in the act.
Indeed, it is time we do away with those things that still force many of our children to miss immunizations, including the unethical practices our health workers usually engage in during immunisation exercises.
Yes, no time is better to check these than now.
Akoma is a public health commentator