Why you should im­mu­nise your child

Daily Trust - - DIGEST - By Ojoma Akor

Bashir hawks biros, diaries and other sta­tioner­ies rid­ing his wheel chair along the streets of Abuja. He de­vel­oped po­lio as an in­fant and it left his legs paral­ysed.

The twenty-four-year-old said his par­ents did not al­low him to be im­mu­nised at all when he was a child. Ac­cord­ing to him, his fa­ther be­lieved so strongly that his chil­dren would grow into strong men and women with­out im­mu­ni­sa­tion that he in­structed his fam­ily mem­bers to chase away any vac­ci­na­tion team that came near his com­pound.

The young man said though he does not hate his par­ents for deny­ing him vac­ci­na­tion, he wished he was im­mu­nised so that he would be walk­ing around with his legs, and have a bet­ter source of liveli­hood to fend for his fam­ily.

Ha­jiya Has­sana Ahmed, a Civil Ser­vant and mother of three, said she en­sured all her chil­dren ac­cessed all the vac­cines for rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tion, ad­ding that it has made them very healthy and she has not had course to fre­quent the hos­pi­tal as they rarely fell sick.

“I took their im­mu­ni­sa­tion se­ri­ously and never for­got any of their im­mu­ni­sa­tion dates and ap­point­ments at the hos­pi­tal. They are very healthy chil­dren,” she added.

Nar­rat­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence on the ben­e­fits of vac­ci­na­tion, Chika Of­for, a mem­ber of the Women Ad­vo­cates for Vac­cine Ac­cess, WAVA, and Chief Over­sight Of­fi­cer at the Vac­cine Net­work for Dis­ease Con­trol, said when she first stepped into Da­mangaza, a Hausa Fu­lani set­tle­ment lo­cated at Garki Ward of the Abuja Mu­nic­i­pal Area Coun­cil, in 2011, vac­cine-pre­ventable dis­eases, deaths were ram­pant and im­mu­ni­sa­tion was non -ex­is­tent.

She said ad­vo­cacy to the com­mu­nity con­vinced them on the need to keep their chil­dren alive with vac­cines and in 2013, ef­forts to im­prove ac­cess to vac­cines paid off; “as no child died of vac­cinepre­ventable dis­eases in the com­mu­nity.”

“Women in the com­mu­nity now seek out rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tion for their chil­dren them­selves and men too have lent their voice in sup­port of it,” she said.

Early vac­ci­na­tion pre­vents dis­abil­ity and early child re­lated dis­eases, but till date some com­mu­ni­ties and par­ents still refuse to al­low their chil­dren to be im­mu­nised. Some of them for­get their chil­dren’s im­mu­ni­sa­tion ap­point­ments at the hos­pi­tal, and do not let them ac­cess vac­ci­na­tion dur­ing vac­ci­na­tion ex­er­cises.

The 2013 Na­tional De­mo­graphic Health Sur­vey (NDHS 2013) NDHS shows that about 25% of chil­dren (age 12-23 months) had re­ceived all the rec­om­mended vac­ci­na­tions while 21% of el­i­gi­ble chil­dren re­ceived no vac­ci­na­tion at all.

UNICEF said that about three out of 10 un­der five deaths are caused by dis­eases for which there are pre­ven­tive vac­cines, such as pneu­mo­nia, di­ar­rhoea, tetanus, among others.

One in every five chil­dren does not re­ceive the vac­cines they need, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Women Ad­vo­cates for Vac­cine Ac­cess, WAVA.

“Im­mu­ni­sa­tion is the process by which a per­son is pro­tected from or made re­sis­tant to an in­fec­tious dis­ease, typ­i­cally by ad­min­is­ter­ing a vac­cine at de­fined pe­ri­ods,” said WAVA.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween im­mu­ni­sa­tion and vac­ci­na­tion is that vac­ci­na­tion is the process of ad­min­is­ter­ing vac­cines to a per­son, ei­ther through oral drops or by in­jec­tion while im­mu­ni­sa­tion refers to the pro­tec­tion that is ac­quired or the im­mu­nity process.

All vac­cines given via the rou­tine im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­gramme in Nige­ria are free in gov­ern­ment owned or pub­lic health fa­cil­i­ties across the coun­try. The free vac­cines in­clude BCG (against tu­ber­cu­lo­sis), po­lio, Pen­tava­lent vac­cines (con­tain vac­cines against diph­the­ria, whoop­ing cough, tetanus, Hep­ati­tis B and Hae­mophilus in­fluenza type B - HiB), pneu­mo­coc­cal con­ju­gate vac­cines, measles and yel­low fever. Other vac­cines are cur­rently not free of charge.

Dr Chi­zoba Wonodi, Con­vener Women Ad­vo­cates on Vac­cine Ac­cess (WAVA) said it was im­por­tant for chil­dren to be im­mu­nised be­cause un­like adults, the im­mune sys­tems of chil­dren were im­ma­ture and not strong enough to elim­i­nate many of the germs they may be ex­posed to.

“Im­mu­ni­sa­tion pro­vides pro­tec­tion to help chil­dren fight dis­eases in their early life, thereby help­ing to save mil­lions of chil­dren around the world from un­timely death,” she said.

Dr Wonodi said im­mu­ni­sa­tion should not be seen as an ex­pen­di­ture, but rather as in in­vest­ment be­cause when coun­tries spend $1, they get back at least $16 in eco­nomic gains.

Dr Uche Ewe­like, a pub­lic health physi­cian and health economist said as a de­vel­op­ing na­tion, the unar­guable im­por­tance of child­hood im­mu­ni­sa­tion could not be overem­pha­sized.

He said it was a cost-ef­fec­tive way of im­prov­ing the eco­nomic, so­cial and liv­ing stan­dard of a na­tion, ad­ding “To­day when you talk about im­mu­ni­sa­tion peo­ple only look at the im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit of stop­ping vac­cine pre­ventable deaths, with­out look­ing at gains in im­prov­ing cog­ni­tive func­tion, im­prove­ment in pro­duc­tive ca­pac­ity, cost of time car­ing for the sick chil­dren and the cost of bur­den of care on the par­ents.”

Dr Ewe­like, who is also sec­re­tary of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic Health Physi­cians of Nige­ria, Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory chap­ter, said in­fant mor­tal­ity was not just a ma­jor in­di­ca­tor for a coun­try’s health sys­tem assess­ment, but also has a very se­vere con­se­quence on eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment of any na­tion.

The pub­lic health ex­pert said we must there­fore walk the talk in achiev­ing a healthy gen­er­a­tion through ef­fec­tive im­mu­ni­sa­tion, ad­ding that the ben­e­fits were tested, ev­i­dence based and devel­op­ment driven.

He said: “For in­stance if a com­mu­nity em­barks on good im­mu­ni­sa­tion prac­tices by mo­bil­is­ing a com­pre­hen­sive vac­ci­na­tion for chil­dren 0-5years in their com­mu­nity, the “herd ef­fect” of vac­cines also pro­tects the com­mu­nity. This there­fore makes such com­mu­nity health­ier and im­proves the qual­ity of life in such com­mu­ni­ties.

“Par­ents should also know that it is morally sound, eco­nom­i­cally bet­ter and parentally pro­tect­ing to have your chil­dren im­mu­nised. This will save them from in­ces­sant vis­its to hos­pi­tal for treat­ments of vac­cine pre­ventable dis­eases and re­duce the re­gres­sive out of pocket pay­ment that makes the fam­ily poorer. If we must have bet­ter fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties and na­tion’s pro­duc­tive work­force, we must pay ad­e­quate at­ten­tion to im­mu­ni­sa­tion in this coun­try.”

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