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UNICEF and Government of Nigeria join massive African campaign to immunize 85 million children against polio in 4 days.

Local government officials immunise a child against polio
© © UNICEF Nigeria/2009/McNab
A young child being given oral polio vaccine during the Child Health Week flag off ceremony in Sokoto State.

ABUJA, 5 March 2010—Starting tomorrow, Nigeria, with the support of UNICEF, WHO and other partners, is joining 19 countries in West and Central Africa in a synchronized campaign to immunize more than 85 million children under five years old against polio in just four days.

Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Central African Republic, Gambia, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone will kick off their 4-day campaigns on 6 March. Niger, Togo and Cote d’Ivoire will join at a later date due to political transitions or elections.

In Nigeria, staff at 19,112 fixed immunization posts will immunize babies and children, while 32,172 house-to-house vaccination teams and 14,224 special teams, all equipped with special carriers that keep the vaccine cool, will travel on foot or motorbikes and in cars and boats on a door-to-door vaccination drive. The Nigerian Government has purchased a total of 57 million doses of the new bivalent oral polio vaccine (it targets two strains of polio at once), enough for every child under five to get the necessary two drops.

Governments and traditional and religious leaders are encouraging families to bring their children for immunization against this crippling disease. Indeed, their direct and sustained advocacy, as well as improved campaign organization, caused polio incidence to collapse in Nigeria between 2008 and 2009, with wild poliovirus type 1 cases falling 90% and type 3 cases falling 50% in that period.

“Nigeria’s success in beating back this crippling disease doesn’t mean it can relax just yet. If we are to protect the children in Nigeria and neighbouring countries by totally eradicating polio, we have to keep this effort going,” said UNICEF Representative Dr. Suomi Sakai, “but the end is in sight.”

Every Nigerian can help kick polio out of the country by making sure each child in their household gets vaccinated at the clinic or every time the vaccinator comes to the door.

UNICEF Nigeria organized the procurement of the 57 million doses of the vaccine that the Government of Nigeria purchased for this campaign. It also supported the maintenance of the cold chain, the system of refrigerated storage and transportation facilities needed to keep the vaccine below the 8C required to preserve the vaccine’s potency. The funding for UNICEF’s logistics and social mobilization contribution to this campaign was provided by Rotary International, a major partner in the global effort to stop polio.

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