Members of the State Social Mobilization Team have paid an advocacy visit to the Executive Chairman State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr Victor Odo and SUBEB Management.
The visit which held recently at the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Calabar, was to brief SUBEB Management on the upcoming Polio vaccination tagged “Outbreak Response (OBR) Campaign,” holding across the 18 Local Government Areas from 2nd – 5th of October, 2021.
Speaking during the visit, the State Mobilization Officer, Mrs. Nsa Ekpenyong said the visit was to solicit SUBEB’s support in disseminating information and creating awareness within the Agency on the forthcoming campaign.
According to her, “We are here today because SUBEB is a major stakeholder, you deal with children under the polio vaccine age of 0-59 months. We need your help in notifying heads of schools, teachers and pupils of the upcoming polio campaign. They should be informed that health workers will be at the various schools from the 2nd of October to carry out polio vaccination. So they should not confuse polio with covid-19 vaccine.”
Speaking on the introduction of the Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV) 2 into the routine immunization schedule in Nigeria, Mrs. Ekpenyong said IPV 2 is already being implemented in Cross River State. She added that children will now be required to take two doses of IPV, first dose at 6 weeks and second dose at 14 weeks after birth.
Explaining the need for the polio vaccination despite World Health Organization (WHO) certifying Nigeria Polio free, the WHO State Technical Assistant for Covid-19, Dr. Umer Pella said “People may be wondering why we are carrying out another polio vaccination even though Nigeria has been certified polio free. This is because polio is in 3 categories, what we have succeeded in eradicating is the Wild polio virus; what we want to eradicate now is “Circulating Vaccine Derived Polio Virus. All the clinical signs and symptoms of both polio viruses are the same. Only that the Wild Polio virus kills fasters than this one. This Circulating vaccine derived polio virus can still cripple a child.”
Dr. Pella further informed SUBEB Management that a Crisis Communication Center (CRICC) for covid-19 has been set up. He said the essence of the center is to track rumors about the Covid-19 vaccine and dispel them by giving out the correct information.
Explaining why the CRICC had become necessary, the WHO Technical Assistant for Covid-19, said: “Since we started rolling out the covid-19 vaccine in Cross River State on the 11th of March 2020, we have been confronted with so many rumors and misconceptions. It is normal as far as we are concerned, because any new vaccine that is being introduced will experience that. We experienced that even when we started rolling out polio vaccine in the past. However we do not have such issues with routine Immunization, where mothers need to take their kids to be vaccinated. A mother will take her child of one month or less to a child welfare clinic to be given vaccines until the child reaches 9-11 months to be fully vaccinated.”
“In Cross River State we have been able to vaccinate about 59,000 people in the first dose and about 39,000 people for the second dose, all in Calabar and we have not experienced any of the rumors people have been peddling about the vaccine. We have not recorded any deaths as a result of the vaccine or vaccination. We are the custodians of the vaccines, by implication we are more knowledgeable about the vaccines than those spreading the rumors. So advocacy campaigns like these are important to pass out the right information so that people can make informed decisions,” he emphasized.
While calling on those who have received the first dose of the vaccine to build their immunity and have full protection by taking the second dose, Dr. Pella said Cross River is the state with the highest number of vaccinated people.
In his words: “Even though we are not assuring people that there will be hundred percent protection because there is no vaccine at the moment that can give you a hundred percent protection, you have about 80 percent protection. If you receive 1st dose of any vaccine and you fail to come back for the 2nd dose you have only about 40 percent immunity. The interval between when you receive first and second dose of AstraZeneca is 8-12 weeks, for Moderna its 28 days; you cannot receive the second dose earlier than 28 days but you can receive it after the 28 days, even after 2months.”
He urged Cross Riverians to continue to practice the three preventive methods of handwashing/sanitizing, wearing face masks and social distancing until the state is able to achieve its target of at least 90 percent fully vaccinated individuals.
While thanking the State Mobilization team for the advocacy visit, the Executive Chairman CR-SUBEB, Mr. Victor Odo expressed gratitude to the State Government and other collaborating partners for their efforts in the fight against Polio and Covid-19 virus.
He pledged the Board’s cooperation and support for the success of the forthcoming Polio Campaign.