Friday 23rd June, 2017
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Obstacles to effective vaccination campaigns in Nigeria

Obstacles to effective vaccination campaigns in Nigeria

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

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