By Alex Uangbaoje, Sokoto
Premised on the commencement of Meningitis vaccination campaign in Sokoto State, the state Ministry of Health and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), on Wednesday organised a one day stakeholders sensitization meeting to share ideas on how to effectively curb the menace.
At the end of the meeting both UNICEF and the Ministry of Health agreed that lack of immunity was largely responsible for the easy outbreak of the bacteria.
Addressing journalists after the opening ceremony of the meeting, Mohammed Mohiuddin, UNICEF Sokoto, Chief of Field Office, attributes the major challenge to lack of immunity as a result of inadequate response by the people to routine immunisation.
“The main problem is the routine immunisation, it is unfortunate to know that Sokoto state has only 5% rate of routine immunisation, so out of hundred people, only five people are vaccinated.
“95% are not vaccinated and for your information this vaccinations are free There is no discrimination between the rich and the poor but unfortunately people are not coming out to be given the immunization.
“That is why now they don’t have immunity and are suffering from this outbreak and are dying. Almost 130 persons have died in Sokoto state so it is a huge number.
“Others are lying down in the hospital and are being treated so the state is doing their best for community mobilization which is absolutely necessary here.
“So today we involve the traditional rulers, the sultanate Council looks, all the imams of the Mosque and also we have our own Volunteers Community Mobilizers (VCMs) on the ground for our polio program, we have community volunteers for our nutrition program, we have school based management committees for our education program. He said.
Mohiuddin added that, “All these people we are mobilizing for the next 7 days so that the whole community can be mobilized to take the vaccines.
“The vaccines for Sokoto state is 850,000 viles almost all have arrived and the rest on the way to the state. The whole of the 9 LGAs will be vaccinated. The neighboring LGAs to the 9 will also be mobilized by our staff. Many of the vaccines are already in the LGAs.
“We have the vaccines on ground, the health workers on ground, it is the communities that are not taking the benefit of the free vaccines. Government and development partners are doing their best but the demand from the communities is zero. But with the vaccines they would not suffer from diarrhea, malaria, TB and other diseases. These vaccines provide protection from 6 killer diseases and that is why we are working with the stakeholders to sensitize the people to be aware of the benefits of the vaccines.”
He explained that, The taboos and religious beliefs are militating against the acceptance of the vaccines. He however, said UNICEF, is working with other stakeholders and using gingles and other means to change their mind.
The State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Balarabe Kakale in his remarks, urged the people to make themselves available especially children in all the health centers to take the free immunization.
According to him, “the fact is that most people in the rural areas are not presenting themselves for immunization if they do their immunity will be so high that we will not have outbreaks.
“So that is why there is this massive sensitization exercise using the traditional institutions, religious leaders and all other means and with the collaboration of UNICEF and other partners.
“We are in the second phase that is the immunization and the vaccines have arrived, the campaign will be God’s grace take place tomorrow and we are targeting 9 LGAs that has the highest attack rate.
“What we are doing about these 9 LGAs that had cases is evidence based, based on the periodic data and you have to go and mitigate the disease there through vaccination and it is based on best practices and after that we will go to the other local government areas to offer protection.
“The good news is that the Vaccines that we are going to use in Sokoto is the one that offers up to ten years of protection and also clear the carrier status, so if we are able to achieve that we will be saying bye bye to meningitis in Sokoto state.
“But let me add that we must increase the up take of Routine immunization that is done in more than 600 health centers in Sokoto state and is free.
“We have learnt a hard lesson, people should be reached out to and be made to understand the benefits of routine immunisation.”