Whilst briefing the press to commemorate the day, the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire stated that he was delighted that the event could even happen this year in spite of the circumstances imposed by COVID-19.
The Honourable Minister remarked that Nigeria is endemic for both viral hepatitis B and C. “In 2018 Nigeria conducted a National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey which showed a prevalence of 8.1% for Hepatitis B (HBV) and 1.1% for Hepatitis C (HCV).” He said that by the picture from survey, it could be estimated that about 20 million people are chronically infected.
Dr. Ehanire also disclosed that Nigeria recognizes the importance of vaccination as a critical intervention to eliminate HBV infection by 2030 hence the nation was one of the first African countries to introduce a birth dose of HBV vaccine in 2004. “Furthermore”, the Minister said, “We established the National Viral Hepatitis Control programme in 2013, to coordinate all national efforts and through this, developed National documents, including policies, a strategic plan, guidelines, training materials and a treatment centre directory, which are in use.”
Expressing optimism, Dr. Ehanire stressed that working in alignment with the regional resolution Nigeria will reduce Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection to less than 2% in children under five years by the end of 2020.
The Minister also disclosed that Nigeria has made progress in the area of Hepatitis B birth dose vaccination through domestic contribution to financing vaccination and expand access to services. He stated that Nigeria is committed a $3Billion a Nigeria Strategy on Immunization and PHC Systems Strengthening (NSIPSS) as plan for transferring financial ownership of the immunization and primary health care system over a ten-year period from 2018-2028.
Dr. Ehanire added that the aim is to address inequities in the uptake of the routine vaccines and includes improvement of coverage for HBV Birth Dose. He revealed that Nigeria has not in any way defaulted in its co-financing obligations of routine immunization implementation in the last 3years.
The Minister further revealed that the Health Team has worked on strengthening routine immunization through the establishment of a National Emergency Routine Immunization (NERICC) in 2017, and there have been several gains through the creation of this platform.”
He added that the significant work that addressed the prevention of mother to child transmission of viral hepatitis is the robust policy on Reproductive Health, Maternal. New-born, and Child Health (RMNCH) to screen all pregnant mothers for HIV, syphilis and viral hepatitis which presents a great opportunity that can be strengthened to improve prevention of mother to child transmission of viral hepatitis.
The Minister concluded by acknowledging the need to continue to build capacities of health care providers and expand social mobilization efforts during this pandemic.