NIGERIA — The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in Nigeria has unveiled a groundbreaking initiative known as the Zero-Dose Learning Hub (ZDLH) to target children who have not yet received routine vaccinations.

This innovative program, implemented by the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) in collaboration with the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) and supported by Gavi, aims to address immunization gaps among children and bolster routine immunization efforts.

The NPHCDA, a subsidiary of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria, is tasked with providing guidance to subnational governments on Primary Health Care interventions.

Their mission involves leveraging innovative approaches, strengthening institutions, fostering partnerships, and engaging communities to ensure the delivery of high-quality basic healthcare services, particularly to the most vulnerable populations.

During the initiative’s launch in Abuja, Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, discussed the government’s commitment to enhancing routine immunization coverage.

He emphasized the establishment of the National Emergency Routine Immunization Coordination Centre (NERICC) as a pivotal step in addressing low immunization rates.

Shuaib highlighted that since the inception of NERICC, immunization coverage has witnessed significant nationwide improvement.

According to the 2021 National Immunization Coverage (NICS) report, Pentavalent vaccine 3 coverage achieved a commendable 57 percent.

Addressing pandemic challenges

Acknowledging the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to routine immunization efforts, Shuaib emphasized that the ZDLH initiative is a strategic framework for Nigeria.

It will facilitate the development of evidence-based strategies to identify, track, and reach children who have not received any vaccinations, particularly those in underserved communities.

Shuaib underscored the significance of the Zero-Dose Learning Hub, describing it as a symbol of hope and a firm commitment to reaching every child, regardless of their circumstances or place of birth.

The government’s objective is to empower individuals involved in immunization services, both at the national and subnational levels, through the learning hub.

This empowerment will enable them to actively contribute to reducing the number of children with zero vaccine doses in Nigeria.

Global milestone in preventive healthcare

Shuaib concluded by emphasizing that the launch of the Zero-Dose Learning Hub represents a significant milestone in the global effort to combat preventable diseases and ensure that no child is left behind when it comes to receiving essential immunizations.

Nigeria collaborates with prominent organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, and other partners to administer 13 vaccines as part of its Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) schedule.

The latest addition to this program is the rotavirus vaccine, administered orally alongside existing routine immunization vaccines at six weeks, ten weeks, and fourteen weeks.

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