Large turnout for yellow fever vaccination in Abuja

“I have never received any vaccine before but my neighbour this morning informed me of the yellow fever vaccination, so I came here for it,” Mary Ben, a 32-year-old woman told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday.

“I know about the disease but since nobody in my family ever had it I didn’t see any reason to receive the vaccine. But I heard that there could be an outbreak, so everyone was advised to take it.”

Like Mrs Ben, most people at the yellow fever vaccination spot in Kubwa, a satellite community of Abuja, were receiving the vaccine for the first time.

Yellow fever is caused by a virus spread through the bite of infected mosquitos. Some patients can develop serious symptoms, including high fever and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), but the disease can be easily prevented by a vaccine that provides immunity for life.

A single dose of the Yellow Fever vaccine is part of Nigeria’s routine immunisation schedule given to children at nine months and the dose confers sustained protection for up to 10 years.

According to fact sheets on the disease from the World Health Organisation, yellow fever virus is endemic in tropical areas of Africa and Central and South America.

The international health agency said a small proportion of patients who contract the virus develop severe symptoms and approximately half of them die within seven to 10 days.

But since the launch of the Yellow Fever Initiative in 2006, significant progress has been made in combating the disease in West Africa and more than 105 million people have been vaccinated in mass campaigns.

There is currently no specific anti-viral drug for yellow fever.

However, the disease resurfaced in Nigeria in September 2017 after 21 years of silence, when it was discovered in a seven-year-old girl in Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State.

The girl had no previous history of yellow fever vaccination. She also had no travel history outside her state two years before the illness.

As of November 11, 140 cases had been laboratory-confirmed in Nigeria.

In its effort to curb the spread of the disease, the federal government with support from the WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and other partners commenced the nationwide vaccination against the disease in January this year.

The first phase of the yellow fever preventive mass vaccination campaign (PMVC) took place in January and February in Kwara, Kogi and Zamfara states and parts of Borno State.

Approximately 8.7 million adults and children between the ages of nine months and 45 years of ages were vaccinated. A total of 39.9 million people are expected to be vaccinated against yellow fever this year.

The second phase of the vaccination campaign, which runs from November 24 to December 7, will target children and adults in Plateau, Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger and Borno states as well as in the Federal Capital Territory.

A man, identified as Abdul who was vaccinated at a spot at Wuse Zone 7, Abuja said he was excited about receiving the vaccine.

He said his friends and their families too had received the vaccine. Mr Abdul said he ensured his wives and children all received the vaccine.

“We are all protected from the disease and we are happy about it,” he said.

Joy Chiagozie, a 25-year-old woman who queued up for the vaccine at the gate of the popular Wuse Market said “I came to the market to buy a few things when I saw the queue. The people told me it’s for yellow fever vaccine, so I decided to join the queue since I haven’t taken it before” she said

Charles Okafor, a 68-years-old said “I was in the shop when my neighbour told me they are giving immunization against a disease. So I came here and heard it’s yellow fever vaccine and I decided to take it.

“According to what I was told, the vaccine is for everyone. I have called my children to also ensure they receive the vaccine,” he said.

Victoria Ishaku, one of the nurses administering the vaccine at Wuse Market said the turnout has been massive and people freely embraced the procedure.

Reacting to people above 44 years receiving the vaccine, she said they probably lied about their age because she was announcing that only nine months to 44 years old were eligible for the vaccine.

“We are also telling those on HIV drugs or hepatitis not to take the vaccine,” she said.

The Director, Special Duties, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Joseph Oteri, said there is nothing wrong with people above the stipulated age taking the vaccine.

“There is nothing wrong if someone over 44 years takes the vaccine. We are aware that people above the age limit is taking it and I know someone above 45 years who has taken it. It doesn’t have any side effects on them.

“It’s just that we don’t have enough vaccines to cater for everyone and that is why we are rationalising it to those that are more at risk,” he said.

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