KWARA HOSTS STAKEHOLDERS' MEETING AHEAD MEASLES' IMMUNIZATION CAMPAIGN

•   State's HealthCare Agency declares vaccines safe for children

•   Participants praise govt's efforts on public health interventions 


Kwara State Primary Healthcare Development Agency on Thursday  organized a stakeholders' meeting for its upcoming measles vaccination campaign in the state to harvest views and ideas to tackle falsehood and misinformation that continue to trail the routine exercise worldwide.

Held in Ilorin, the state capital, the gathering was attended by people from different walks of life, including officials of government, development partners like World Health Organization (WHO), National Primary Health Care Development Authority (NPHCDA), UNICEF and CHIGARI Foundation. 

It also featured representatives from different associations like Parents Teachers' Association (PTA); National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Kwara state chapter; media executives and journalists; social media proprietors; market leaders; Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR); community and religious leaders; heads of security agencies; and leaders of transport unions; among others. 

Addressing the gathering, Executive Secretary of the Agency, Dr Nusirat Elelu, said the meeting was called to sensitize and seek assistance of the participants in educating the public on the benefit of getting their kids vaccinated against diseases, and to start dispelling the rumor making the rounds on the safety of the immunization programmes in the state. 

Dr. Elelu, who expressed shock at the extent of public misinformation and misconception about the last polio vaccination campaign, said the agency considers it necessary to embark on special public sensitization before the launch of a measles vaccination campaign soon. 

The Executive Secretary declared vaccines as safe and effective in preventing diseases, and sought the cooperation of parents, caregivers, community and religious heads to help sensitize people around them on the need to avail their kids the opportunity to be vaccinated.

She said each stakeholder in attendance has roles to play, such as passing round right information about the vaccination programme, which she explained seeks to protect children specifically against measles.

"However, the upcoming measles campaign, which is why we are here today, is going to be more tough than the oral polio vaccine, because this is going to be an injectable vaccine. And before the start of (measles) vaccination we have begun to have a lot of concerns.

"Everyday I receive voice notes on social media. In fact, as of last week, we heard some parents are withdrawing their children from schools. All of you have heard that the HPV vaccine is going to be introduced and Kwara state is in phase II. The HPV vaccine is a very important vaccine and it is targeted at children from 9 to 14 years old.  

"Unfortunately, people have twisted this information to become an advocacy for contraception, or a plot by the government to sterilize or reduce the productive performance of our girls. This, you might think, is something we should not worry about, but when we have parents withdrawing students from schools before even the vaccines are here, then there is a problem, and that also makes this meeting important," she said. 

Elelu also promised that the agency will strengthen its social mobilization activities and the sensitization to ensure that the right information gets to the right people at the right time. 

State Coordinator for World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Abdullahi Salihu, said all hands must be on deck to tackle the misleading posts on social media in relation to the immunization campaign, which he said is designed to keep the children healthy.
 
"Based on what we have been hearing about immunization and vaccination, we have a lot of work to do to save our children. Some people in some communities are busy spreading falsehood to prevent our kids from doing what they are supposed to do. Once you hear any information contrary to what the exercise stands for let us please tackle it. We cannot afford to allow our children to get sick from what is preventable. We have to stand up against these saboteurs," he said.

Chairman for Parents Teachers' Association (PTA) and first Makama Ilorin Alhaji Ibrahim Oniye, in his remarks, said the cases of people rejecting vaccines on the basis of not being given the government's palliatives was unacceptable, and must be stopped.

He advised the agency to always carry the association along in their campaigns and promised to further educate members on the importance of the measles immunization campaign, applauding AbdulRazaq's government for leadership quality.

Mrs. Olabimpe Ade-Aboyeji, a director from the state Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development, advised the agency to always carry the Ministry along in the activities, and pledged their synergy in discouraging rejection of the exercise when taken to the schools.  

Other participants, who spoke at the event, took turns to eulogize Dr. Elelu and her team for a job well done, and encouraged the government to make sure that the house-to-house vaccination teams are well taken care of.

They commended Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq for investing hugely in the sector to guarantee public health safety.

Alade Opeyemi 
Press Secretary, 
KWSPHCDA

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