With the breakthrough of malaria vaccine, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Nigeria needed to expand its immunisation infrastructure to enable the country to access and administer the malaria vaccine.
UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins, who made the call, while reacting to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation for widespread administration of the RTS, S/AS01 (RTS, S) malaria vaccine to children in Sub-Saharan Africa, said it will take some time before the vaccines will be rolled out publicly.
For the meantime, Hawkins urged the federal government of Nigeria to build the infrastructure to accommodate the vaccine.
He said, “WHO’s recommendation is very good news but it will take some time before the vaccines are available publicly. The immunisation structure in Nigeria is still evolving and it is a very robust structure.
“There is routine immunisation for children under five years, there are vaccines for polio, measles, pneumococcal disease, and the COVID-19 vaccines; the next one will be a vaccine for malaria.
“In the next two to three years, we need to build the infrastructure further so that it can accommodate the malaria vaccine, flu vaccine, and other vaccines that are coming. The key issue will be the cost, the call chain, the distribution system. The cost of the vaccine will be the fundamental decider for a country with high malaria burden as Nigeria to push this forward.”
He expressed confidence that the Nigerian government would agree to use the vaccine and in time, work on how it can accommodate it in the whole immunisation programme.
“All the diseases facing children are preventable. It is very important to look at the statistics; for instance, pneumonia is another problem which is where the pneumococcal disease is being introduced. UNICEF is working to reduce child mortality and disease burden on children in Nigeria; this will continue to evolve with time,” Hawkins added.
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