Cross River State leverages polio campaign structure to integrate Covid-19 vaccination

To encourage the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination, the Nigerian Government, with support from the WHO, leveraged the polio vaccination campaign by integrating the COVID-19 vaccination.

Calabar, 21 October, 2022 – Bassey Eyo, a mother of three, living in Cross River State was delighted that she and her child could receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the novel Oral Polio Vaccine (nOPV2) respectively at a health center in Big Qua.

She had travelled 5 miles to get to Big Qua town with the hope of accessing both vaccines.

“I am happy that I had the opportunity to receive the COVID 19 vaccination and polio vaccine for my eligible child within the same health facility. We do not have access to the services in the village where my family lives. It was my husband who directed me to Big Qua Town (his hometown). I received the COVID-19 vaccine, and my child got his polio vaccination, and we are both doing well,” she said.

For Joan Ewah, an N-Power staff, the availability of both vaccines at the health center where he took his COVID-19 jab encouraged him to take his children to receive the polio vaccine.

“I am excited that both vaccines are accessible as they would encourage many people who bring their children for the Polio vaccine to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  As a parent, I would not like to have a child that is paralysed,” he said.

To encourage the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination, the Cross River State Government, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO), leveraged the polio vaccination campaign by integrating the Covid-19 vaccination.

On 25 August 2020, Nigeria and the WHO Africa region was certified polio-free after achieving the wild polio virus-free status. However, Nigeria is still combating the Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus Type 2 (cVDPV2), and as a result, necessitated sustain nOPV2 vaccination across the country.  From January to September 2021, 22 states reported 327 confirmed cases of cVDPV2.  However, Cross River State has not reported any case.

Cross Rivers State Commissioner of Health, Dr Betta Edu, flagging-off the vaccination campaign. © WHO/Nigeria

Nevertheless, for preventive measures, the Cross River State Government, supported by partners, implemented a four-days outbreak response (OBR) as a proactive measure to protect all eligible children (0-59 months).

Also, Nigeria is currently combating the COVID-19 pandemic, with 209 546 cases reported and 2838 death as of 19 October 2021. Of which, Cross River state has reported 614 cases.

At the vaccination campaign flag-of, the Commissioner for Health, Dr Betta Edu, said the concept was to provide service to the eligible children and their parents in an integrated manner to ensure that the parent gets access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

The 4-day exercise (02 – 05 October 2021) targeted to reach 887 162 children with the nOPV2 vaccine in the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs). At the end of the campaign, 926732 children had received the nOPV2 vaccine, and 124,524 and 59,843 eligible persons received the first and the second dose of COVID 19 vaccines.

Speaking on the importance of the integration of the vaccination campaign, Dr Edu said the approach would avail parents who bring their children for nOPV2 vaccination to obtain the COVID-19 shot.

Both polio and COVID 19 vaccines are available across the health centers. We have advised that the service should use an integrated approach to reduce missed vaccination opportunities.
In her remark, the Director-General, Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency Dr. Janet

Ekpenyong, said prevention of infectious diseases is a fight everybody must join.

To ensure that we do not record any case of cVDPV2 in Cross River state, all hands must be on deck.  We are currently responding to COVID- 19 outbreak, and we would not like to combat any other vaccine-preventable diseases. We have introduced the high impact interventions to bridge existing vaccination gaps, and we encourage eligible persons to present themselves for vaccination, she said.

Representing the WHO Acting State Coordinator, Dr Biniam Getachew reiterated the importance of the OBR campaign and implementation of routine immunization to interrupt vaccine-preventable diseases in Nigeria.

Appreciating the vaccination teams for their coordination, he said, “WHO will continue to provide the necessary support to scale up provision of integrated service delivery towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage.”

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