The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that Nigeria would begin the production of hepatitis vaccines to eliminate the scourge of the disease in the country.
According to him, viral hepatitis remains a public health threat, especially hepatitis B and C, which cause chronic infection with attendant morbidity and mortality.
The minister stated this in Abuja, at the flag off of 2022 World Hepatitis Day, with the theme: “Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer To You” he said over 20 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B or C due to low awareness of the infection.
He noted that the spread of Hepatitis is similar to HIV, which is fueled by unsafe sexual behaviour and injection practices, unsafe blood transfusion, harmful practices such as sharing of sharp objects for scarification marks, tattoos etc and Mother-to-Child transmission.
He said: “Nigeria plans to be producing vaccines despite the vaccine policy in Nigeria and we’re already on track, to work with the private sector to start producing routine vaccines which are called the traditional vaccines.
“We are about to be connected by the end of next month with partners to start working on a new mRNA vaccine collaboration. So we shall be receiving those who shall be working with research and development of the new generation of vaccines based on mRNA.
“I am proud to note that Nigeria is one of the first counties to have achieved this in a short time. The core pillars identified for attaining the 2030 target include infant vaccination, prevention of mother-to-child intervention, blood and injection safety, harm reduction, diagnosis and treatment. The National Strategic Framework will be formally presented as part of this briefing.
“As a country committed to the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030, the need to create massive public awareness cannot be overemphasized. Together with this, we need to build the capacity of health care providers, expand access to diagnosis and treatment, and improve community engagement as well as political leadership at all levels,” he said.
In his remarks, the World Health Organization (WHO), Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo noted that Nigeria has the highest burdens of viral hepatitis with a national hepatitis B (HBV) prevalence rate of 8.1%, and a hepatitis C (HCV) prevalence rate is 1.1% among adult aged 15-64 years.
He said that the high cost of treatment and out-of-pocket payment is identified as impediments to treatment access for people that are aware of their status.
According to him, “In recent years, there has been a growing political commitment at country level, by introducing the hepatitis B Birth dose and the pentavalent (DTP-HepB-Hib) vaccine into routine childhood immunization schedule since 2004, Nigeria is contributing to the global achievement of the reduction of hepatitis B infections in children.
“Similarly, since 2005, the country has routinely screened all donated and transfused blood and blood products for HBV and HCV and has institutionalized injection safety and universal precaution since 2007”.
He further pledges his commitment to continue the partnership with Nigeria in its effort to ensure that testing and treatment services are available in the communities and accessible to the people who need them.
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