Immunization stands as a cornerstone of public health, annually preventing millions of deaths from a range of diseases. Vaccines play a pivotal role in controlling infectious outbreaks and curbing antimicrobial resistance. The impact extends beyond health, significantly reducing healthcare costs and alleviating the burden on families and communities, fostering holistic development.
The Solina Centre for International Development and Research (SCIDaR), in its commitment to enhancing health outcomes in Africa and beyond, spearheads innovative interventions to strengthen government delivery mechanisms, boost vaccine uptake and combat hesitancy.
In addition to strengthening primary healthcare systems to improve immunization coverage in 6 Northern Nigeria states through the Northern Nigeria Routine Immunization System Strengthening Program(NNRISP), deploying innovative strategies to immunize children in security-compromised areas, and co-designing Be-SCi informed frameworks for Immunization Demand generation in the country, SCIDaR is supporting the NPHCDA’s effort to introduce and drive uptake of Typhoid and HPV vaccines in Nigeria.
Nigeria is home to the second largest number of zero-dose children in the world, 2.2 million children who have not received DTP1 (UNICEF 2023). The reasons for this are varied and include lack of knowledge and awareness on the part of parents and caregivers about the value of immunization, lack of access to facilities, and lack of facility readiness. The innovative management support project for Zero Dose reduction in northern Nigeria (NNRISP 2.0) builds on the success of the first NNRISP program and hopes to tackle the prevalence of Zero dosage in northern Nigeria.
Similarly, the CRUK project will contribute to achieving the first pillar of the WHO 90-70-90 global strategy for cervical cancer elimination by ensuring at least 90% of girls in Nigeria are fully vaccinated with the HPV vaccine by age fifteen (15).
Despite the importance and effectiveness of vaccines, several people are hesitant to embrace the life-saving intervention. A GAVI-sponsored study in four Nigerian states with low COVID-19 vaccine uptake identified concerns about vaccine safety (42%), fear of needles(21%), and lack of access to healthcare facilities (33%). The findings emphasize the necessity of clear, targeted and differentiated communication strategies using digital and traditional media, and incorporating responsive feedback and socio-behavioral models to improve and sustain vaccine acceptance.
Addressing similar concerns through the Community Reorientation Women Network (CRoWN) initiative in collaboration with the Aliko Dangote Foundation, SCIDaR empowers positive female community role models to address negative social and cultural norms around vaccination. CRoWN women went door-to-door to identify Zero Dose children(ZD). They leveraged their familiarity with the terrain to ensure that no household was left out. Through the CRoWN initiative, 430 Zero Dose, and 386 unimmunized children have been reached leading to a 25% reduction in Penta dropout rate in the pilot Konkiyel Ward of Bauchi state. Consequently, a total of 1674 under-immunized children were reached. With lessons from the pilot, SCIDaR and ADF are working with government and community stakeholders to extend the intervention to other priority ZD LGAs in Bauchi, Kano, Sokoto and Zamfara states.
On this World Immunization Day, SCIDaR reaffirms its dedication to advancing global health by emphasizing the importance of vaccines, combating hesitancy, and empowering communities, striving towards a world where preventable diseases are a thing of the past.