Concerned about the threat of infectious diseases and challenge of vaccine hesitancy in the country, medical experts have raised awareness on the importance of vaccination for the prevention of infectious diseases, as they also called for a collective effort to attain herd immunity in the country.
This position was stated at the launch of Victory Vaccine Clinic, a stand-alone clinic devoted to providing standard preventive care with a view to promoting wellness, held at Rockview Hotel, Festac, Lagos State.
The resource persons at the event, which had the theme “Mobilising All Hands to Combat Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the Community” emphasised the importance of vaccination as well as the challenges in vaccination, stressing that vaccination is an efficient tool to prevent infections from undermining the public health.
In his speech, Pharm. Victor Erukunuakpor, managing director and lead consultant, Gratunity Nigeria Limited, a health advocacy and consulting firm, noted that globally, millions of children still die from infectious diseases, but many of the death are preventable with existing vaccines, adding that vaccination brings many benefits including individual, societal and economic benefits.
Also speaking, Dr Elochukwu Adibo, a renowned biomedical scientist with specialization in Histo/Cytopathology, who spoke on the topic “Vaccine Myths”, defined a vaccine as a biological preparation that provides adaptive or acquired immunity to a particular infectious or malignant disease. He added that the agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognise and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with the agent that it may encounter in future.
According to him, some of the popular myths are as follows: natural immunity is better than vaccine-acquired immunity; the vaccine can infect one with the disease it’s trying to prevent; vaccines are used to microchip people; the vaccine causes autism; infant immune system can’t handle so many vaccines; vaccines aren’t worth the risk; adding that there had never been a single credible study linking vaccines to long term health conditions.
In his words “vaccines are one of the great pillars of modern medicine. Life used to be especially brutal for children before vaccines came into existence with a huge portion being affected by diseases like measles, smallpox, whooping cough, rubella, polio, and many more, but today, these ailments can be completely prevented with a simple injection. So, as scientists continue to advance and tackle new challenges, people should not forget how many deaths and illnesses vaccines have prevented and how they continue to protect us from a potentially devastating form of infectious diseases.
In her lecture titled, “Common Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in Our Community”, Dr Amaka Nebe, a consultant family physician, at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), noted that many of the diseases prevented by vaccines have dramatically declined since the introduction of the vaccines programme.
Speaking on the challenges, she said vaccine coverage among children and adults in the community is unacceptably low, as there is limited patient awareness about the need for vaccines among adults, adding that adult vaccination is less integrated into clinical practice.
Also speaking on the topic, “Roles of Community Leaders in Combating Vaccine-Preventable Diseases”, Mrs Faozat Awelenje, managing director and chief executive officer, Comprehensive Health Care Foundation, and a key member, of Festac Town Muslim Community, stressed the roles expected of community leaders including addressing the issue of non-compliance and to sustain the immunisation programme through proper planning, implementation and evaluation, adding that all hands must be on deck to combatting vaccine-preventable diseases in the community.
Speaking in an interview with journalists, Pharm. (Mrs) Folasade Lawal, managing director, Victory Drugs Limited, and proprietress, Victory Vaccine Clinic, noted that the clinic is committed to preventive healthcare, especially as regards vaccination, adding that it intends to create more awareness on vaccine-preventable diseases and what the community can do to combat vaccine-preventable diseases.
“I always ask why people allow what they can prevent to harm them, it is a great philosophy of life because I see no reason why people who could protect themselves against the enemy still allow the enemy to harm them. So, we felt involving the whole community makes it more effective. It’s very interesting and encouraging because the key opinion leaders came out solidly and vowed to partner and collaborate with us.
Speaking about what the clinic stand to gain, she said, “Victory Drug gave birth to Victory Vaccine Clinic, so our interest is basically to see a healthier community as we have a duty to champion preventive health which is the best way to keep the society healthier because the healthier the community, the happier we are. So we have a lot to gain by promoting the uptake of vaccines for vaccine-preventable diseases and that is what we are meant to do.
We also need education and awareness for those who have misconceptions. We tell them that not getting vaccinated is like having a house without a fence, exposing the house to external attack, so the vaccine act as a fence or guard. I want to say that people should not allow what they can overcome to overcome them, what they can deal with to deal with them, and not allow themselves to be victims rather than being a victor.
Other personalities at the event include Dr Valentine Oluwaseyi Buraimoh, the executive chairman, Amuwo Odofin Local Government, represented by Princess Adebimpe Bello; Prof. Fola Tayo, father of the day; Dr Innocent Okoawo, chairman, AGPMPN, Amuwo Odofin Chapter; Mr Vincent Iwunze, chapter chairman, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists; Pharm. Gbolagade Iyiola, chairman, PSN, Lagos State; Pharm. Adekola Wojuola, among many others.