The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said yesterday that the Federal Government has begun a robust plan to tackle wild polio in the land.
This followed the outbreak of the disease in Jere and Gwoza areas of Borno State.
About 87 million children will be immunised before the end of December, he said.
The minister said the plan, which was developed by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) and its partners, would not suffer from funding.
He said the Federal Government had released N6.5 billion while an additional N6.7 billion was being expected.
The latest outbreak has dimmed the country’s chances of being yanked off the list of polio-burdened countries.
Nigeria had done two years without a case of polio and was due for certification in 2017 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) before last week’s two cases.
The outbreak has been blamed on the Boko Haram insurgency, which made it difficult to reach certain parts of Borno State.
According to the minister, 31.5 million children are targeted to be immunised in the Northeast while the National Immunisation Programme, which would cover the country, would target 56 million children.
Adewole said: “The Ministry of Finance released N6.5 billion to NPHDA to carry out its activities. When this issue started, we approached the Ministry of Finance. I can assure you that another N6.7 billion is on the way, out of the appropriated budget for 2016. We have enough for coverage in terms of funding. We earmarked N9.8 billion for polio. By Monday, the N9.8 billion will be released. This is inclusive of the earlier N6.5 billion.”
The challenge, the minister said, was access to the children.
Giving an update on the recent outbreak of polio, Adewole said: “So far, we have commenced vaccination of children in accessible areas of Gwoza, Jere, Maiduguri Municipal Council (MMC), Bama, Mafa (1 ward) local government areas concurrently with active case search. Relatedly, we are working closely with the Ministry of Defence to provide security for the health workers during the house-to-house immunisation and to provide timely information on security and accessibility situations in Borno State and its environs.”
The minister said those going on pilgrimage were not excluded in the latest immunisation plan.
He said: “Also, plans are underway to reinforce and intensify immunisation of intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. To this end, adequate supplies of vaccines have been provided at different international port health locations and airports. This is consistent with the International Health Regulations (IHR).”
Adewole also said the Federal Government had approved the implementation of five rounds of immunisation for the country, adding that the process would be synchronised.
Explaining the ministry’s strategy, the minister said: “I have approved the revision of the robust Wild Polio Virus (WPV) outbreak response plan developed by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and its partners. The response plan includes five rounds of polio campaigns, two of which are focused on 18 Northern states and two to be conducted nationwide; one to be conducted in five states.