Over 2.6 million children have been immunised against measles in Kano State in 2017. Officials said the success of the exercise was remarkable but not unexpected, as it was preceded by a thorough preparation and awareness campaign across the 44 local government areas of the state.
“I had been waiting for the commencement of vaccination and I am so excited the day has finally come”, Aishatu Isah, a mother of three said from a queue with her kids at a primary healthcare centre in Tarauni Local Government Area.
“The government prepared us for this day. For the past one month, all you hear is measles vaccination campaign so what is happening here today is not a surprise as we had been expecting this day to come. Mobilizers had been going from one house to another to tell us the importance of bringing our children out to receive the vaccine,” she said
On Sunday November 12, which was the first of the six-day exercise, hundreds of parents trooped into PHCs and temporary immunisation stands with their children for the vaccine.
With some holding their babies or strapping them to their backs, it was a sight to behold at Ugwu akwu PHC in Tarauni LGA as parents, caregivers and health workers engaged in the exercise.
“Anybody who is not aware of what is happening today and for the rest of the week has not been in Kano State,” a caregiver, Nafisat Bala, said. “If you go round the state, you will see posters and billboards all informing people and educating them on the importance of the vaccine. Mobilisers have also been going from house to house to ensure that every child between ages nine and 59 months receives the vaccine.”
The story was not different in other parts of the states, as screaming children could be seen taking the vaccine. Ordinarily, one would have assumed that the recent outbreak of monkey pox disease which caused panic in various parts of Nigeria, would interrupt the measles vaccination exercise, but the reverse was the case as residents eagerly presented their kids to be immunised.
In Gwale LGA, Aisha Ismail, a caregiver, said they were told several weeks ahead to enable them prepare for the exercise.
“I brought my nephew to receive the vaccine. Officials had been moving from house to house in the past weeks to educate us on the importance of taking the vaccine. Before this period, I only saw measles as rashes on the body that can heal at any time, but they told us that it is a killer disease. But once a child receives the vaccine, he will not be infected with the disease,” she said.
Measles is an infectious disease that causes fever and a red rash on the skin. Although it can affect any age, the viral infection of the respiratory system mainly affects children. The disease is contagious and can spread through contact with infected mucus and saliva. Some of the symptoms are cough, fever, muscle aches and sore throat.
A surveillance data also shows that measles incidence among under five children increased in the northern part of Nigeria from 190 million in 2014 to 527 million in 2016.
Jamila Sulaiman, a coordinator of the Voluntary Community Mobilisers, VCM, in Tarauni LGA of Kano State, said mobilisers had been helpful in mobilising caregivers, who in return, she said, had been cooperating.
“The VCMs were recruited from the same communities where they serve, so they are known and familiar to the people,” she said. “As a result of the familiarity, caregivers trust the mobilisers with their kids and allow them take them to vaccination posts. We have however warned that no child should be taken without the parent’s approval,” Ms. Sulaiman said.
Apart from the house to house mobilisers, town criers were deployed with megaphones to go from door to door and appeal to parents to release their children and wards.
Nura Mohammed, the PHC coordinator for Tarauni LGA, said there was a large turnout for the vaccine. He said the response was not unexpected as government had done a lot to create awareness of it.
“We started the house to house mobilisation at least one week before the implementation. Ward heads, churches and mosques were used to pass the message ahead of the vaccination, which started on November 12 and will end on November 17,” Mr. Mohammed said.
“On the first day of the measles vaccination in Kano, we immunised 10,509 children in Tarauni Local Government Area. Although, we had a target of 10,289, we surpassed the target. This shows that the parents, health workers, mobilisers and all other officials involved in the vaccination process were prepared.”
Mohammed Sani, the Local Immunisation Officer for Kano Municipal LGA, said that the exercise in the LGA was smoother compared to that of 2015.
“Caregivers were aware of this vaccination programme and they have accepted it. Almost all of them were waiting for the first day of the programme. There is a queue in every corner of Kano Municipal. That shows that the people are interested in the programme.
“For day one of the campaign, 11,400 children were immunised in Kano Municipal Council and we have a total population of 62,732 children to immunise within the six days of the campaign”.
After the first day of the exercise, the State Immunisation Officer, Sherrif Musa, also remarked that it had begun smoothly.
“We are trying to immunise about 2.5 million children in the state, so we will ensure that all necessary things are put in place in each local government area. All equipment, vaccines, the data tools, health workers and all other logistics are present in all LGAs within the state,” Mr. Musa said.
“We have ensured that mobilisation is adequate in all the 44 LGAs. During the October round of polio, we addressed the issue of monkey pox. Though, there were still some fears, we did a very good mobilisation. We used house to house mobilisers and town announcers to ensure we have adequate mobilisation in all areas of the state.”
On the challenges faced in the exercise, Mr. Musa said, “Though women knew the importance of taking measles vaccine, they still required mobilisation to ensure they release their kids for the vaccine. Some of them don’t know the age group or where the vaccination will take place and the time it will commence in their communities. But we are working on it, and it will be fixed. I am hopeful that the state will meet its target of 2.5 million children,” he said.
At the official takeoff of the exercise in Faragai town in Albasu LGA, the governor of the state, Abdullahi Ganduje, who was represented by his commissioner for health, Kabiru Ibrahim, said N75 million was earmarked for the exercise across the state.
At the end of the six days of the exercise, over 2.6 million children were immunized, with Kumbusu LGA recording the highest number with 177,603. Tofa LGA recorded the lowest with 25,000 children.