The Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi Ojaja II, on Thursday said, Nigeria recorded monumental success by achieving a “wild polio-free country” after three years of no recorded case.
Speaking at a celebratory event on Thursday in Abuja, Ogunwusi said that the eradication of polio in the country highlighted that public trust remained a key factor for a successful eradication programme.
It was reported that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), also commemorated the 2022 African Vaccination Week.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative joins Nigeria and the global community in celebrating a historic global health milestone, three years have passed since Nigeria’s last case of wild polio.
Oba Ogunwusi in his address thanked all stakeholders involved in the fight against polio for their relentless efforts.
While celebrating the efforts of the NPHCDA Executive Director, Dr Faisal Shuaib, he urged all to believe in the country, insisting that there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel.
“But we’ve proven several times that indeed, we can achieve quite a lot of giant strides. Look at what happened during the COVID-19 pandemic and how everybody rallied round this country.
“Behold, all the stakeholders from the private sector to the public sector, all rose to the occasion standing for hours, giving out information, creating awareness back and forth, and today our country is being celebrated for that,” he said.
The Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Sa’ad Abubakar III, said that government and its partners should remain committed to improving the health and well-being of Nigerians, especially vulnerable populations.
His Eminence, who was represented by the Chairman of the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Health Care Delivery (NTLC), and Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Samaila Mera, pledged the continuous support of Traditional and Religious leaders towards the achievement of immunisation in the country.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, commended the efforts of government and development partners, who made huge investments and sacrifices to sustain and maintain the wild polio virus free status.
“It is a great honour and privilege to be part of this third anniversary of wild poliovirus eradication in the country.
“Today we are commemorating this indeed very significant day and the progress we have made in the country after several decades of efforts to eradicate the virus, which has crippled many of our children.
“This day did not come easy as government and development partners made huge investments and sacrifices over the years. The day may have come too late for those who have been paralysed and those frontline health workers , who paid the supreme price for the triumph of eradicating the disease,” he said.
Ehanire, who was represented by Director Family Health, FMoH, Dr Salma Kolo, said that for the millions of children who were prevented from the crippling effects of wild polio virus.
“These sacrifices would not go in vain and therefore, the significance of commemorating this day.
According to him, the past three years have been a mixed bag of events for the country as the impact of COVID-19 affected the health system,
“Also the emerging security challenges in some parts of the country poses a challenge to the onslaught of the re-emerging Variants of the Polio Viruses (cVPV2), which are remnants in the environment as a result of suboptimal environmental sanitation.
“This can potentially be virulent and affect children who have not been enrolled in the Routine Immunisation system.
The minister said that the ministry has directed and guided the NPHCDA to mount the needed response to deal with these viruses within an integrated framework, to address other public health challenges including the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination in the country.
Earlier, Shuaib said with recent cases of wild polio virus reported in two African countries namely, Mozambique and Malawi, the agency had stepped up its surveillance to make sure that there was no silent transmission that could take place.
He said that the country’s polio eradication effort indicated that strict surveillance was vital in ensuring that overlooked vulnerable communities were identified.
He said that independent surveillance by key stakeholders and interested parties did not only ensure an effective intervention strategy but also encouraged support from politicians and private-public partnerships.
The NPHCDA boss said that the country was able to eradicate polio with support from religious and traditional leaders.
Public Health experts, who spoke to our reporter on the sidelines of the event, said that It was wise to acknowledge that the need to maintain vigilance for any potential resurgence of wild poliovirus was still paramount.
They said though the country’s journey to wild polio-free status has not been easy, it has however, taught us some lessons that would place the country in a favourable position to combat future disease control and eradication efforts such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
They, however, called on healthcare providers to be armed with verified and up-to-date information that would enable them to counter arguments against vaccines, especially vaccine distrust and hesitancy promoted by religious leaders, misinformation, and personal opinion.
It was reported that Nigeria celebrated three years of being polo virus free.
The virus when it infects can lead to paralysis, limb deformities, breathing problems and even death. Poliovirus resides only in humans and passes on to the environment in the faeces of an infected person.
Nigeria is the latest country to have officially stopped endemic transmission of wild poliovirus, with its last reported case in 2016.
Wild poliovirus has been eradicated in all continents except Asia, and as of 2020, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries where the disease is still classified as endemic.
It was recalled that recent polio cases arise from two sources, the original wild poliovirus (WPV), and the much more prevalent mutated oral vaccine strains, the so-called circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV).
Vaccines against each of the three wild strains of polio have given rise to strains of cVDPV, with cVDPV2 being the most prominent. cVDPV caused 689 reported paralytic polio cases worldwide in 2021.
There were six reported WPV cases in 2021, a decrease from 2019’s 5-year high, a 99.2 per cent reduction from the 719 diagnosed cases in 2000 and a 99.998 per cent reduction from the estimated 350,000 cases, when the eradication effort began in 1988.
Of the three strains of WPV, the last recorded wild case caused by type 2 (WPV2) was in 1999, and WPV2 was declared eradicated in 2015.
Type three (WPV3) is last known to have caused polio in 2012 and was declared eradicated in 2019. All wild-virus cases since that date have been due to type 1 (WPV1).