The news from the Expert Review Committee (ERC) on polio that Nigeria had a 98 per cent drop in polio cases between 2009 and 2010 is heartwarming. According to the ERC, this reduction is the largest single drop in polio cases ever recorded in the world. The report noted that Nigeria has recorded only eight cases of polio to date in 2010 compared to hundreds of cases in the previous years that gave Nigeria the negative distinction of a carrier state from which the infection was spreading to other parts of Africa where it had earlier been eradicated.
Not too long ago, 2007 to be precise was Nigeria fighting an unusual outbreak of polio caused by mutating polio vaccine. Also, vaccinations were halted in 2003 for nearly a year because of rumors that the polio vaccine sterilized Muslim girls or contained the AIDS virus. It is worthy of commendation that Nigeria through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) of the Federal Ministry of Health recognized that the only remedy is to keep vaccinating children there. International agencies that have collaborated with Nigeria in this endeavor, notably United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Rotary International deserve commendation for their efforts.
Nigeria however should not rest on her laurels as we know that we are just a couple of infections away from another major outbreak. The concept of herd immunity needs to be continuously preached so that parents know that not vaccinating their children put not only their children but other children at risk for this preventable and debilitating disease. The battle against polio can not be won until the incidence of polio in Nigeria is zero. It is hoped that the encouraging reports will continue to encourage donor agencies and collaborative partners to do more for polio eradication in Nigeria. The Nigerian government needs to continue the commemoration of National Immunization Day to draw attention to the need for and benefits of immunization against polio but all vaccine-preventable diseases.