Dr Betta Edu, Director General, Primary Health Care Development Agency, Cross River, has said that communal clashes in some parts of the state was hindering full immunisation coverage.
Edu said this in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria on Saturday in Calabar while commemorating the World Immunisation and Africa Vaccination Week.
The Week, with its 2019 theme “Protected Together: Vaccine Work”, is celebrated in the last week of April with the aim of promoting the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against vaccine preventable diseases.
She said immunisation in some parts of Cross River was challenging due to the security challenges, adding that insecurity in a particular area reduces the immunisation coverage because health workers would not go there.
The DG also said the state has many hard to reach areas which prevents the smooth delivery of vaccination.
She said: “Communal clashes like we have in Ukelle Community in Yala Local Government Area against a part of Ebonyi and the crisis in Abi Local Government Area are some of the clashes that have made immunisation coverage in these parts low.
“We have too many hard to reach areas in Cross River, about 428; in an area like Belegete, you trek for 8 hours up and down mountains that are very steep, this makes it difficult to reach the people of these areas with vaccination.
“These are outside the fact that we have challenges in equipments that are not functional, we need more health workers, although, the state government is employing 1000 health workers to boost health service delivery in the state.”
Edu said the world was able to overcome certain diseases due to its commitment to immunisation through the process of vaccination.
She pointed out that her agency always finds novel ways to ensure residents access the immunisation at all times.
She said that if an individual or organisation was having an event and invited the agency to come and immunize people, they would be glad to participate.
Edu said they collaborated with the military sometime ago when they had their medical outreach in the state.
She said: “Last month we had the maternal and neo natal tetanus elimination immunization; it was given to women between the ages of 15 and 49 years and 548,000 women were covered in Cross River.
“Nigeria is a very diverse country, the percentage of immunisation right now is about 33 per cent in the country. We have up to 90 per cent coverage in some states while some states have less than 5 per cent coverage.
“This less than 5 per cent coverage in some states neutralizes the 90 per cent and this brings the rating of the country down as it concerns immunisation.
“We have a situation where we would have been declared a polio free nation but we are back struggling with polio just because of the insurgency and health workers could not go into particular areas in the North East and everything just turned upside down.
“So, when you look at Nigeria as a whole, in all honesty, I believe what the WHO said that Nigeria has one of the largest number of unvaccinated children out of the 20 million unvaccinated children in the world.
“If we have a functional health system, immunisation will work, family planning will work, maternal and child health will work.”
The DG urged residents to take advantage of the week to access immunisation for themselves, their wards and children, adding that it was free, safe, cost effective and saves lives in millions.