COVID 19 not an excuse for denying children immunisation – APHDA boss

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Executive Secretary, Anambra Primarily Healthcare Development Agency (APHDA) Dr. Chioma Ezenyimulu has called on parents and caregivers to rise up to the task of immunizing their children against measles and other vaccine preventable diseases.

She decried low turnout for routine immunisation meant to protect children against diseases due largely to the effects of lockdown occasioned by coronavirus pandemic.

Ezenyimulu spoke in Awka at a Media Orientation on Measles Immunisation Awareness organised by the agency, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

She maintained that the COVID-19 pandemic should not be an excuse for not having children immunised.

“Despite health protocols aimed at checking the spread of coronavirus, parents and caregivers should realize that measles is a deadly disease that kills thousands of children annually.

“Immunisation is an essential healthcare service and COVID-19 does not stop it,” she stated.

APHDA boss further explained that once signs of measles such as high fever, redness of eyes, runny nose and rash, was observed, the child should be taken to the nearest health facility for immediate attention.

“Measles reduces a child’s ability to fight other diseases, resulting in frequent illness, it can also lead to blindness and death,” she added.

Ezenyimulu further said that measles could be prevented with vaccine which is free and available at vaccination posts or health centres close by.

She urged parents and caregivers to vaccinate their children with first dose of measles vaccine at nine months and second dose at 15 months.

According to her, the COVID-19 pandemic should never be an excuse for not having children immunised.

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“Immunisation is an essential healthcare service and COVID-19 does not stop it.

“On the national dashboard, we saw a decline in the number of vaccinated children in the state due to misinformation and fear.

“I’m appealing to mothers and caregivers that even, in the face of the pandemic, ensure you take your children for their routine immunisation, because children need it to stay healthy.

“This COVID-19 may stay with us for a long time and you don’t want to wait till it’s over before you immunise your child,” she said.

Also speaking, Director, Disease Control and Immunisation at the agency, Dr Nnamdi Uliagbafusi, said immunisation was key to improving health and welfare of children.

Uliagbafusi said that vaccine protect children from diseases and death caused by measles, diphtheria, hepatitis B, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, yellow fever, pneumonia and meningitis.

“The immunisation services are free at our healthcare centres, the vaccines are safe and effective and is to be administered to children, irrespective of their previous immunisation status,“ he said.

On her part, State Health Educator, Mrs Uju Onwuegbuzina, stressed the need for environmental cleanliness to check the spread of measles and other communicable diseases.

Onwegbuzina equally advised participants to regularly wash their hands with soaps under running water, cover their nose and mouth with bent elbow when they cough or sneeze or use tissue and dispose same in a covered dustbin.

“We should not share personal items such as utensils with people who may be sick and should disinfect any surfaces or objects that are frequently touched’’, she said.

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In her presentation, the state Immunisation Officer, Mrs Nkechi Onwuvunka, who spoke on various aspects of vaccine preventable diseases, pleaded with caregivers to ensure that their children take the second dose of the measles vaccine.

Onwuvunka explained that children were formerly immunised against measles at nine months, but it was discovered that only about 85 per cent of children immunised were protected.

“It was realised that only 85 per cent of children developed immunity with only one dose, so, a second dose was introduced in 2019 to take care of the remaining 15 per cent”, she said.

In his remarks, Dr Diden Gbofeyin, UNICEF Consultant in Anambra, urged the media to help spread the word about the importance of immunisation across the nooks and crannies of the state.

Gbofeyin also urged community leaders and parents to embrace and increase the uptake on immunisation to protect children from the deadly diseases.

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