On Monday December 22, a historical event was held in Lokoja, Kogi State capita. That day, the Federal Government, in collaboration with National Primary Health Care Development Agency and other Supranational Agencies, launched the new Pneumonia Vaccine into Nigeria.

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs, which needlessly affects millions of people worldwide each year. Pneumonia infections can often be prevented and can usually be treated. Globally, it is estimated that pneumonia kills nearly 1 million children younger than five years each year. This number is greater than the number of deaths from any infectious disease, such as HIV infection, malaria or tuberculosis.

Thus, the launch of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) in Lokoja was very significant. Represented at the occasion were the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the arm of Federal Ministry of Health responsible for routine Immunisation in Nigeria, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN), Clinton Health and Access Initiative, GlaxoSmithKline and other partners in the routine immunisation landscape in Nigeria

The Kogi State governor, Idris Wada, described the introduction of the new Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine as an essential response to reducing pneumonia in Nigeria. The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Yomi Awoniyi, said the newly introduced vaccine is a laudable initiative that is capable of protecting young children against pneumonia and other diseases. He disclosed that it is another strategy aimed at reaching every child at risk of pneumonia. He further called on stakeholders, who are in the forefront of disseminating information on immunisation and other health sectors, to influence the acceptance of the newly introduced vaccine.

Speaking at the launch, Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Ado Muhammad, said by the time the nation achieves full-time national coverage of the vaccine, Nigeria will avert over 600,000 childhood deaths over three years. He assured that the Federal Government will ensure the availability of the “life saving” vaccines for the Nigerian child towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4).

According to WHO Country Director, Dr. Rui VAS, “The introduction of PCV in Nigeria will ultimately improve the Child Health outcome of the country and accelerate the progress of the country towards achieving the MDG4 Goal”. The Country Director, who was represented by Dr. Musa Omotosho, said over 177,000 children under five years die from Pneumococcal diseases yearly in Nigeria, and that “The introduction of PCV into the country EPI schedule will ultimately improve the health outcome of children in the country”.

Also commenting at the event was the Director of Disease Control and Immunisation NPHCDA, Dr. Emmanuel Abanida, “We are happy this is happening at this critical time in Nigeria. Globally, pneumonia kills nearly 1 million children younger than five years each year. This is greater than the number of deaths from any infectious disease, such as HIV infection, malaria or tuberculosis.

“This is why we are more than happy to jump-start the administration of this vaccine to ensure our children live healthy life”. He implored “all partners to be unrelenting in their support until every child in all African countries has protection against infection by bacteria or viruses that may cause pneumonia”.

The introduction of the new vaccine will initially commence in some states in Nigeria. However, once nationwide introduction is achieved, this historical vaccine introduction will ensure the availability of the PCV through the public health system at no cost for all children less than one year of age.

Lekan Asuni, the Managing Director GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical in Nigeria, the manufacturer of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine, also at the launch stated that the introduction will bring a remarkable improvement in the reduction of childhood death related to Pneumococcal diseases.

Pneumonia, is an infection of the lungs, needlessly affects millions of people worldwide each year. Pneumonia infections can often be prevented and can usually be treated.

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