Nigeria committed to eradicating variant polio virus by 2023 – Shettima

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Vice President Kashim Shettima says Nigeria is committed to eradicating the variant polio virus by the end of 2023.

Shettima gave this assurance at a meeting with the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Aliko Dangote Foundation on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The focus of the meeting was healthcare delivery in Nigeria.

The vice president said that the government was countering the conspiracy theories and ensuring that every Nigerian child had access to quality primary healthcare.

“We are gathered here today because we do not wish to fail to respond to the deaths brought to us by a virus and we can guarantee such a picture easily if the occupants of this room can promise to work with President Bola Tinubu and invest in this grand vision of a healthy nation.

“ If we were not united in fighting the wild polio virus, we would not have defeated it in 2016.

“This is why we are committed to eradicating the variant polio virus before the end of this year and ensuring that every Nigerian child is covered in our routine immunisation campaigns.

“ But to achieve this, we must identify the threats ahead of us; it is not yet Uhuru; it is not yet time to celebrate.’’

Shettima said that the pentavalent vaccine coverage had improved from 33 per cent in 2016 to 57 per cent in 2021.

He said that the stakeholders deserved commendation as the variant polio virus had declined in Nigeria by 84 per cent from 2021 falling to less than 200 cases in 2022.

“Thanks to you, the states that achieved high category immunisation coverage which is between 60 and 80 per cent of the target demographics have expanded from 12 to 21 states in five years.

“We are well aware of the setbacks and what we must do to build a healthier nation.

“The growing integrity of the data collected by our field workers, some of whom lost their lives or were injured in the line of duty has facilitated investments in our healthcare delivery system.

“ I witnessed the sacrifices made by our field workers who dedicated their lives to promoting routine immunisation firsthand when I was the governor of Borno State.

“So, thank our generous guests here, our friends and allies; they stood with us even in the midst of conflict to ensure that children in partially accessible settlements were not forgotten,’’ the vice president said.

Shettima applauded the governors of Borno, Zamfara and Sokoto States for their passionate efforts at addressing the core challenges.

According to him, the virus is largely restricted to three states—Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi.

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“I am quite glad that two of the governors are here with us; and they have shown that commitment, zeal, and passion of frontally addressing our challenges.

“So, this gathering is not only a celebration of our progressive synergy to end vaccine preventable diseases and poverty; it is also a triumph over disinformation and skepticism that have plagued the campaign to build a healthier nation.

“We are not only fighting diseases but also countering the conspiracy theories of those committed to hijacking our interventions, our inspirations.

“I want to assure that the government recognises the pivotal role you have played in our collective role to offer our nation medical and nutritional support at no cost to them,’’ Shettima said.

He said the government would not slow down until it delivered on its promise to eradicate the polio virus by the end of 2023.

The vice president reiterated government’s commitment at building a robust framework to ease access to vaccines and palliatives.

“We won’t stop until we ensure that the resources deployed by our partners and our counterpart funding are disbursed for the intended purpose.

“We won’t stop until we ensure that the children in our remotest villages have access to primary healthcare and nutrition like their peers in our cities,’’ he said.