To address the severity of rotavirus-associated diarrhoeal diseases, the Federal Government, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and partners to launch vaccines against rotavirus into routine immunisation programmes by the end of 2019.
According to World Life Expectancy, over 160,000 children under age of five die each year due to diarrhoea in Nigeria. Rotavirus is one of the most deadly diarrhoea causing agents, children under 5 years of age are especially vulnerable in Nigeria.
Dr Bassey Okposen of NPHCDA commented:
“When the vaccine against rotavirus is introduced, Nigeria will avert rotavirus diarrhoea attributable hospitalisations and deaths as some children with rotavirus diarrhoea lose a lot of fluids and become dehydrated leading to hospitalisation and in some cases eventual death.”
“I believe WHO’s close collaboration with the Federal Government will instigate a drastic reduction in the burden of rotavirus disease related hospitalisation and deaths. The vaccine against rotavirus has proven to be highly effective globally on strains of rotavirus causing childhood diarrhoea.”
Apart from vaccines against rotavirus, other effective interventions against diarrhoeal diseases include promoting breastfeeding, providing water safety, and improving hygiene and sanitation.
The Federal Government, through the NPHCDA and in collaboration with WHO, has established four designated health institutions as Rotavirus Sentinel Surveillance sites. A sentinel surveillance system is established when high-quality data is required for decision making.
WHO has supported the government in setting up the sites and has provided laboratory equipment, toolkits, and other supplies as well as capacity building. The sites are located at the University of Nigeria, Enugu State University, University of Ilorin, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and Abu-Bakr Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospitals.
At the sites, children under the age of five with diarrhoea, regardless of the duration or presence of blood in the stool, are admitted to the hospital. Each site is expected to collect at least 150 stool samples per year. According to data collected from the sites, 47% of 4,377 registered cases during an 8-year period were positive for rotavirus with a case fatality rate of 1.3%. The incidence of rotavirus diarrhoea is highest in January and February of each year.
Based on the data recorded, Dr. Richard Banda, WHO Technical Officer of Nigeria, emphasised that ongoing rotavirus sentinel surveillance offers information on the burden and epidemiology of the disease in Nigeria. The information is very useful for introducing vaccines against rotavirus and examining the impact.
Dr Banda said:
“We will utilise the existing polio structure to support new vaccine introduction, rotavirus inclusive, and conduct post introduction survey as has been previously done for other new vaccines like pentavalent vaccines.”
For the introduction of rotavirus, WHO interventions will include logistical support for vaccines delivery, develop data tools, update guidelines, build capacity, supportive supervision, and participation in coordination activities in national, state, and LGA levels.
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Image credit: UNHCR