You can’t provide a person with a routine, potentially life-saving, vaccine if you can’t find them. This is the point driven home by a recent Nature article, which suggests that the difficulty of vaccinating Nigerian nomads could be among the final hurdles to polio eradication. To address this, the National Stop Transmission of Polio (N-STOP) programme has undertaken a census of Fulani nomads and other isolated populations in Nigeria. These efforts in the remote corners of Nigeria are part of an emergency action plan to eradicate Polio globally.
In light of World Immunization Week, we want to acknowledge the means in which people are tackling such unique roadblocks to essential immunization campaigns. These efforts should further remind those of us who do have access to basic vaccinations to utilise them.
Benefits of Immunization are Clear
Immunization prevents some two to three million deaths every year. Science has allowed us to develop effective, proven vaccines against diseases that were once major killers – diphtheria, measles, pertussis, pneumonia, polio, rotavirus diarrhoea, rubella and tetanus. However, we are far from implementing these vaccines at the global level needed to successfully eradicate all of these illnesses.
Even in some of the most developed countries in the world, uptake of basic vaccines is not total. A recent article in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper examined a Unicef report on the well-being of children in affluent countries – and cited the statistic that only 84 percent of Canadian children were properly and fully vaccinated for measles, polio and DPT3, as “pretty embarrassing”. If these stats are in fact correct, then yes – these numbers should be seen as an embarrassment indeed. The article’s point, however, is that this statistic is very likely wrong, thanks largely to Canada’s lack of a national vaccination registry.
Immunization Implementation at Global Level
Hopefully the uptake of vaccines in Canada is higher than the 84% suggested by the Unicef report. The consequences of a lack of immunization or immunization adherence in developed countries are very real, as we are now seeing in the UK, where an outbreak of measles centred in Swansea has affected more than 800 people. Experts have estimated that more than a million schoolchildren are at risk after an MMR vaccine scare deterred many parents from having their children vaccinated a decade ago. Luckily, uptake in England today is a different story: Approximately 91% of children in England receive their first dose of the jab before age two.
Ideally uptake numbers for vaccines as basic as those for MMR or Polio would be 100% – whether in Canada, England or Nigeria. This means working to improve health literacy among patients, and working to improve patient access to vaccines in underserved communities. Science has given us amazing means of improving life expectancy and quality of life – it’s up to us to take advantage of them.
Read the full Nature article on polio vaccination efforts in Nigeria.
Learn more on the World Health Organization’s page about Immunization Week.0