In spite of impressively eliminating both polio and Ebola, Nigeria still has 3.5 million babies unvaccinated against the measles. And even with the World Health Organization (WHO) ushering in the “Decade of Vaccines” in 2012, the number did not diminish.
This ratified action plan to avoid vaccine-preventable deaths in children by the WHO is somehow deficient despite all the efforts. The AllAfrica reports that many African nations will still remain way off WHO’s goal of global access to vaccinations by 2020. Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and South Africa all join Nigeria as some of the poorest vaccinators in the world.
Wins and Losses for Vaccination in Africa
Africa as a continent has made substantial improvement in immunization over the past several decades. The Conversation reported last year that only 5% of African children were vaccinated back in 1980, a figure that had risen to 77% by 2014. And worldwide, mass measles immunization has resulted in nearly a 80% decline in fatalities between 2000 and 2014, according to WHO. The recommended two doses of the measles and rubella vaccine is currently received by 85% of the world’s children.
Nonetheless, close to 20 million children worldwide do not receive the required vaccinations, All Africa reports – more than 40% of these are in sub Saharan Africa. As a result in 2013, over 3 million infants perished from vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and polio. According to the This Day Live, measles remains the fifth leading cause of illness and death in children, in spite of a safe, reliable and highly effective vaccine.
Why is Africa Lagging?
There are many cultural and economic barriers to immunization in developing countries. A lack of public awareness and trust in the health system can deter parents from vaccinating their children. In Africa especially, a lack of understanding and a general mistrust of the West have historically led to a suspicion of vaccines, and religious objections can also be common.
Nigeria’s vaccination effort is also challenged by a poorly funded and under-resourced health care system, unhelped of course by political unrest and instability. For these reasons, immunization efforts in lagging countries such as Nigeria and South Africa need to be location-specific, and culturally sensitive of any barriers that could create reluctance among parents.
Fortunately, a concentrated effort is being undertaken in Nigeria to combat the deadly disease. A non-governmental organization, the International Association of Lions Club has partnered with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in an immunization campaign beginning in late January. The Lions National Measles Campaign coordinator, Dr Yinka Griffin explained the vision his humanitarian organization has for the country.
“The overall campaign is to reduce childhood mortality and morbidity from measles infection among children aged nine months to five years,” he said, according to This Day Live. One of the main purposes of the campaign is to encourage people to embrace the Nigerian Government’s efforts at immunizing the nation.