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FG Seeks Gavi’s Help to Address Cholera Vaccine Shortage

The Federal Government is in talks with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) to address the shortage of cholera vaccines in the country by acquiring more supplies.

The Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), Dr Jide Idris confirmed this in an interview on Tuesday in Abuja.

Nigeria is grappling with a cholera outbreak amidst a global shortage of vaccines.

Idris noted that recognising the urgent need for vaccines, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, has entered into discussions with Gavi.

“Gavi, a global health partnership, plays a pivotal role in improving access to vaccines in low-income countries.

“Through these negotiations, Nigeria aims to secure an emergency supply of cholera vaccines to curb the outbreak.

“At present, cholera vaccines are not stocked in our public facilities, though they are available in limited quantities in the private sector.

“But vaccines alone are not the only preventative measures we have at the moment; we must also ensure environmental cleanliness and proper hand hygiene,” he explained.

He highlighted that globally, the demand for cholera vaccines has surged, leading to severe shortages.

“This limited supply has strained efforts to control outbreaks in endemic regions, including Nigeria.

“Cholera, an acute diarrheal disease caused by ingestion of contaminated water or food, remains a persistent health threat in Nigeria.

“The outbreak has significantly impacted several states, leading to numerous deaths and overwhelming healthcare facilities.

“Poor sanitation, inadequate clean water supply, and limited healthcare infrastructure have exacerbated the spread of the disease,” Idris explained.

In response to the crisis, he said the  NCDC has intensified its public health campaigns, emphasising hygiene practices and the importance of clean water.

“However, these measures alone are insufficient without adequate vaccination coverage. The shortage of vaccines has hampered mass immunisation campaigns, crucial for preventing the spread of cholera.

“The situation in Nigeria underscores broader issues of global health equity and preparedness. It highlights the necessity for increased investment in vaccine production and distribution infrastructure,” he stated.

Additionally, he called for stronger international collaboration to ensure that life-saving vaccines reached the most vulnerable populations promptly.

In response to the escalating cholera outbreak in 31 states of the federation, he said the NCDC has activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to coordinate national efforts to combat the disease.

“The cholera outbreak is characterised by a case fatality rate of 3.5 per cent,  significantly higher than the national expected average of one per cent,  underscoring the severity of the situation,” he said.

He said that Lagos accounted for the highest number of deaths with 29, followed by Rivers with eight, Abia and Delta with four each, Katsina with three, Bayelsa with two, and Kano, Nasarawa, and Cross River with one each.

“This alarming trend highlights the urgent need for a coordinated response to prevent further escalation of the crisis.

“Sixteen states accounted for 90 per cent of the confirmed cases, with Lagos being the epicentre of the outbreak.

“Lagos state, having the highest number of cases, has received significant focus, with ongoing support and resources directed to manage the outbreak effectively,” he disclosed.

The states affected by cholera include Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross Rivers, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, the FCT, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, and Zamfara.

He said that a dynamic risk assessment conducted in May by experts from various fields, including health, environment, agriculture, and water resources, underscored the multifaceted nature of cholera prevention and control.

“It is clear that an integrated approach is necessary to address the complex factors contributing to the spread of cholera.

“Efforts should focus on improving water and sanitation infrastructure, promoting hygiene practices, and ensuring access to clean drinking water and safe food.

“Additionally, strengthening surveillance systems, enhancing healthcare delivery, and mobilising community engagement are critical steps we are using to manage and mitigate the outbreak,” he said.

As Nigeria continued to navigate this challenging period, he said the resilience and collective action of all stakeholders would be crucial in overcoming the epidemic and safeguarding the health and well-being of communities.

Since January 2023, there have been 82 million doses requested from 15 countries, almost double the 46 million doses produced over the same period.

The global stockpile was depleted until early March 2024 and currently has 3.2 million doses, far short of the five-dose goal.

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