The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control has revealed that over 70 per cent of confirmed diphtheria cases in the country were people between the ages of two and 14, noting that the development was a fallout of the immunisation gap.
The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, who made this known at the launch of the Media Epidemiology, Infodemiology and Social and Behaviour Change/Risk Communication (EIS) fellowship in Abuja, said 82 per cent of the confirmed diphtheria cases are unvaccinated, adding that although, cases of infection had been reported in adults over 40 years.
The hybrid event, which was organised by Breakthrough Action Nigeria, in collaboration with NCDC and African Field Epidemiology Network, was meant to help guide media professionals in strengthening their capacity through effective science communication and reporting.
Dr. Adetifa said there were reports of multiple outbreaks of diphtheria across the country since December 2022 and that more cases are expected to happen due to historical gaps in vaccination coverage.
He said, “The underlying or predisposing factor is all about people not taking up vaccines. Vaccines are routinely available on the recommended National Primary Health Care Development Agency child immunisation schedule. The vaccines are a highly effective tool; deaths from diphtheria are preventable.
“We have had over 800 cases, more than 70 per cent of the cases are occurring in people aged two to 14 years. Over 82 per cent of the confirmed cases are unvaccinated. Now, for people who are two to 14 years old, what this means is that they did not make use of the vaccination opportunities.
“According to our vaccination schedule, one is to receive three doses of DPT at six, 10 and 14 weeks. Then you are protected against diphtheria. We are unfortunately seeing the consequences of historically poor vaccination coverage.
“Children under age two now have higher vaccination coverage, so these days, they are less affected by the ongoing outbreak. We have said two to 14 years, but there are even older people, above 40 years that are affected. This shows why poor vaccination coverage is the whole story about the current diphtheria outbreak.”
The NCDC DG, explained that the EIS fellowship is meant to empower the media to provide the right public health information on future disease outbreaks as well as to help ensure appropriate behavioural change in Nigerians, irrespective of their social and economic standing.
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