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Lagos Has The Highest Number Of Unvaccinated Children In The South West Of Nigeria- UNICEF

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By Felix Kuyinu

The United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, has reckoned that there are 190,000 unvaccinated children in Lagos.

UNICEF also informed that the number is the highest in all South Western states in the country.

According to a Health Specialist of the body, Dr. Ijeoma Agbo, a lot of children do not receive a single dose of any vaccine every year due to lack of awareness, poor access to immunisation services, and vaccine hesitancy.

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Agbo stated this during the commemoration of this year’s World Immunisation Week tagged ‘Humanly Possible: Saving Lives through Immunisation’ held from April 24th to 30th.

The health official who represents the global body in Nigerian southwestern states bemoaned the alarming number of unvaccinated children, noting that it remains a big concern in the protection of lives of the minor.

“We are still seeing these pockets of unvaccinated children despite all the efforts that have been made,” she decried.

“We have seen that some of the challenges remain the lack of awareness and knowledge.

“We have unvaccinated children that account for about 2.2 million in Nigeria and particularly in certain states like Lagos and Kano, just based on our population.

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“Within the south-west states, Lagos is leading in terms of having the highest number of unvaccinated children and as of last year, we had over 190,000 of them.

The UNICEF representative noted that the public are quite aware of immunisation but lack the knowledge about the age children are supposed to receive it.

“Some don’t understand the importance of it and even when you speak to some caregivers, they don’t even know how to go about it and where to get it from. So, we have seen that knowledge and awareness is still a major problem.

“Another problem that we have seen is in terms of access. Poverty is a big problem that we know is still rampant in Nigeria.

“For some, even the finance to access the health facilities where they will get these vaccines is still a huge problem, especially in our hard-to-reach areas, conflict areas. That has been a major issue in terms of accessing these immunisation services”, she stated.

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Agbo, during the Immunization Week, it’s 50th edition, said that UNICEF aims to highlight the collective action needed and to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

She revealed that the body has set up expanded programme on Immunisation to recognize the collective efforts of stakeholders in saving and improving countless lives from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Furthermore, the health expert said myths and misconceptions around vaccines, especially among people in rural areas, also contribute to the burden of unvaccinated children in the country.

Agbo added, “Another problem that we have seen and we saw it quite rampant during the HPV vaccine introduction is vaccine hesitancy. It is a big challenge that has cropped up.

“We are trying to see how we can collectively bring that down. Vaccine hesitancy is a problem because people don’t have trust in the vaccine. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about vaccination.

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“I want to say that those are the three major issues that have contributed to the high numbers of unvaccinated children within the country and our various states.”

Reacting on this year’s immunisation week, Agbo said vaccines are the only single public health intervention that has been seen to prevent diseases. She called on the government at all levels to continue senzitizing the populace on the significance of vaccine.

“There is need for the government, community and religious leaders, healthcare providers, and the media to raise more awareness on immunisation to ensure that no child is left behind, said the week is celebrated to highlight the importance of vaccines.

“With this week, we can raise awareness on the diseases that vaccines can prevent and of course, continue to showcase the fact that vaccination is a public health triumph.

“It is the only single public health intervention that has been seen to prevent diseases. So, we want to focus on that and continue to raise awareness about vaccination.”

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She reminisced the achievements achieved by UNICEF saying, “In 50 years alone, we have saved over 450 million lives just with vaccination, and that translates to one every 10 seconds, which is a huge improvement.

“In these 50 years, we have eradicated smallpox. We have almost eradicated polio.

The UNICEF specialist said that the government needs to invest in immunisation services. According to her, a lot can be achieved by allocating additional funds and resources to ensure the provision of these essential services.

She emphasized that resources are crucial in the procurement of vaccines for children as well as in transporting the vaccines to the end users.

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