Vaccines in Short Supply

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Onyebuchi Chukwu, minister of health

Nigerian hospitals have run out of vaccines needed to fight against the four child killer diseases. The situation has raised fears that many children will die this year of the preventable diseases

By Chinwe Okafor  |  Mar. 10, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

NIGERIA may lose many children this year as a result of vaccine shortage in the country.  Vaccines against the four child killer diseases which include measles, yellow fever, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin and Hepatitis B, are out of stock in Nigerian hospitals. This development is worrisome to many Nigerians, especially the medical experts. In 2013, Nigeria had also experienced a major measles vaccine shortage resulting in the occurrence of 57,892 measles cases with 348 deaths.

In 2012, the number of reported measles cases was 11,061, with 126 deaths. This represents more than 500 percent increase in the number of measles cases from 2012 to 2013. Experts have warned that with the stock-out, the country may experience more disease outbreaks this year. According to Oyewale Tomori, president of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences, the measles outbreak in 2013 hit states such as Niger, Kebbi, Kogi, and Katsina. He said  investigations had revealed that 88 percent of the children that contracted the disease did not receive a single dose of measles vaccine. He added that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency which is the government agency that monitors the administration and procurement of vaccines, said that in the 2013 immunization schedule, the nation ran out of the DTP and measles vaccines and as at January, the country is already low in the stock of tetanus, polio and Hepatitis vaccines.

“We have exhausted our stock of yellow fever vaccine since December 2013; while some frantic efforts are being made to procure more vaccines, the current stock level of vaccines will be completely depleted by March or April 2014. With the 2014 budget yet to be approved by the National Assembly, the Federal Government may not be able to release funds on time to procure vaccines needed for the rest of the year,” Tomori said.

Tomori
Tomori

Realnews findings have revealed that many mothers are already feeling the pinch of the scarcity of the vaccines. According to Titi Adebola, her six- month old baby, Mayowa, has become a victim of the no- drug syndrome. Adebola complained that she had been going from one health centre to the other trying to get her baby immunized but to no avail. All I keep hearing is to come back and check from time to time. She said her prayer has been that the worst does not happen to her baby in the near future. She is also calling on the government to come to her aid as well as  address the vaccine shortage issue urgently.

“This is not my first time of witnessing this. My friend’s baby almost died from measles in 2010 because the baby’s immunization could not be completed. She was only given one dose and the same story is repeated this year,” she said. Anthony Omolola, a family physician, noted that the recurring vaccine stock-out has increased the likelihood of infant mortality and morbidity. He said that the shortage of vaccines could make babies vulnerable to infectious and other killer diseases, which they would have been able to resist if they had proper vaccination.

“It is a disaster for any nation to run out of vaccines. It should not happen at all. It means that right now, the babies have no defence against any disease. Their immunity is low. If a baby catches an infection, it will spread like wild fire to the other children in that environment. It may kill them in great numbers, depending on the number of children exposed to the outbreak. It can spread from a city to the village, from states to states. It may worsen Nigeria’s infant mortality rate which is a situation the nation is still battling with.”

Omolola, added that lack of data, poor logistics and planning were other accompanying reasons for the vaccines stock out. He urged the government to live up to its responsibility and know that the number of children that are born every year will enable guide it  to make proper budgetary provisions for vaccination. He said that shortage normally occurs when the number of vaccines procured is not enough to go round the children. And to tackle this stock-out syndrome finally, the government must have birth statistics and make appropriate budgetary allocations.

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