Science Academy warns of shortage of measles vaccines - The Nigerian Academy of Science (NAS) has warned that the country risks the scarcity of measles vaccines, which could result in hundreds of under five deaths, if urgent action is not taken, as the current stock will run out by mid-April.
NAS in a statement on Tuesday called on the government to urgently release money for the importation of the vaccines to avoid the negative experiences of the last three years.
Last year Nigeria experienced a major measles vaccines shortage resulting in 57,892 measles cases with 348 deaths.
It pointed out that with the 2014 budget yet to be approved by the National Assembly, the Federal Government might not release funds on time to procure vaccines needed for the rest of the year.
The NAS, quoting the October 2013 edition of the Routine Immunization and Logistics Feedback, said stocks of vaccines for various immunization programmes would run out by May this year.
“We have exhausted our stock of yellow fever vaccine since December 2013. While some frantic efforts have been made to procure more vaccines, the current stock level of vaccines will be completely depleted by March/April 2014,' the statement said.
Vaccines regularly run out in Africa’s most populated black nation with stock of BCG, Hepatitis B and Yellow fever vaccines running out at various times during last year.
In 2012, the number of reported measles cases was 11,061, with 126 deaths. This represents more than 500% increase in the number of measles cases from 2012 to 2013.
The reported number of measles cases in 2013 was the highest in the last 6 years. Most (78%) of the 2013 measles cases occurred in children between the ages of 9 and 59 months.
“Significantly, 88% of the children coming down with measles had not received a single dose of measles vaccine. With the measles vaccine (shortage) in 2013, our national measles coverage rate was 42%, about half of the coverage rate of 80% for all vaccines recommended by WHO.
“Nigeria also has the largest population of people in Africa at risk of contracting Yellow Fever; yet vaccine coverage was at an alarmingly low rate of 35% in 2012, also as a result of (shortage) of the Yellow Fever vaccine,” the statement explained.
The NSA warned that delay in the release of funds for some vaccines, which take up to six months or more between placing an order and delivery, could be dangerous.
It noted that delay could not only be dangerous but deadly to the 6-7 million Nigerian children, left unprotected in the absence of vaccines.
Vaccine preventable diseases still account for about 40% of all childhood deaths in Nigeria.
Vaccines are manufactured on demand with the needed quantity ordered and paid for far in advance of the anticipated time or period of use, the statement said.
Nigeria imports every dose of an estimated 130 million doses of vaccines needed to fully vaccinate the annual 6-7 million new born children.
The academy advised the government to engage the private sector in the production of vaccines to save the country spending hard currency from import.
It also suggested the need to amend the national policy, so that immunization funding will be put on first-line charge in the annual budget.