In the past, there was inadequate information about what the immunisation packages entailed. This situation triggered the misconception that the polio vaccine used for immunization contained infertility drugs which were capable of preventing immunised children from having children in the future. There has been increasing information being passed to communities by their leaders. This has brought about a change in perception.
Currently about five states have been identified to be vaccinated for meningitis which is a deadly disease in the whole Sub-Sahara Africa. The frequent house-to-house visit has been perceived as suspicious and insincere given the existence of other devastating diseases such as Malaria and typhoid fever. Patients are left to treat on their own as the required drugs and hospital equipment are not available.
Gombe State is among the identified states such as Zamfara, Jigawa, Bauchi and Katsina which experienced a serious resistance to immunization especially during the polio immunization.
The United Nation Children Educational Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) have come up with new immunisation exercise for meningitis which is expected to last for ten years unlike previous one that lasted for only three years. At the moment both the religious and the community leaders have been involved in order to influence their people to allow their children’s to be immunized.
It is expected that about 95% of persons age 1-29 years in the meningitis belt of Nigeria would have been vaccinated. This can be achieved given the scope of campaign which already started in Gombe State through the effort of the State Government which was set to vaccinate over 1.9 million people against the dreaded cerebro-spinal meningitis, thus making it the first state in the country to flag-off the vaccination exercise.
Those to be vaccinated, according to health authorities in the state, are within the vulnerable age range. The campaign by the state in collaboration with WHO, UNICEF as well as NPHCDA, was flagged-off by Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo at Kwamfulata in Kwami Local Government Area.
According to the governor, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Alhaji Ahmed Yayari during the flagging-off ceremony, the cerebro-spinal meningitis was a highly contagious disease that could cause instant morbidity and mortality. The North experienced the outbreak between April and November every year.
He added that when the epidemic occurred in 2009, over 50,000 cases were reported in the country and it was particularly devastating in Gombe where a total of 6,167 cases were reported with 346 deaths recorded.
He explained that, in view of this, the federal and state governments as well as development partners embarked on a massive campaign to vaccinate the most susceptible group in states in the country.
Meningitis is believed to be the largest burden of diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Meningitis belt and the period of disease was between December and June when the weather is dry, windy and dusty with cold nights. Bauchi, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara and Gombe states were identified as states in the north where the meningitis vaccination exercise were to take-off.
Unfortunately, only Gombe State has been able to provide the available vaccine for the exercise and has already started with the targeted age group.?
The MenAfriVac Vaccine was a campaign method introduced with the aim of eliminating huge Meningitis outbreaks in Nigeria. This started from Gombe State withthe targeted age group of 1-29 years. MenAfriVac uses drama reflecting local context as a mean to reach illiterate people with an easy listening/entertaining type of programmes.
“We use “folk media” like songs and poems and bring the human angle on how it affects people to find solutions to their problems. It facilitated dialogue on child health and immunisation and go into the communities to report on what is happening at the grassroots, for example, in Gombe State we visited Balanga, Yamaltu-Deba, Dukku, Gombe metropolis to view the situation”, a member of the campaign group said.