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Media, gateway to community, crucial in eliminating Polio virus- WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described media as the gateway to the community and useful tools in the fight against polio virus.

Dr Fiona Braka, the WHO Immunisation Team Leader, made the assertion at a Town Hall meeting organised for journalists to kick start the second round of the 2019 Polio Vaccination campaign in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the campaign will begin on June 15 and last till June 18.

It aims at administering two drops of polio vaccine to all children who are below five years of age.

The campaign will hold across the 20 local government areas of the state, using a house-to-house approach.

“In recognition of that role you play, you are gateway to the community; you are gateway to the population at large, because you carry a message that people listen to.

“Also, it is important that the message you carry is accurate and it’s convincing that people will bring their children out for this programme.

“We are in the middle of an outbreak, and we must respond to the outbreak; the outbreak response must be of high quality to interrupt the transmission of the virus,’’ she said.

According to her, Nigeria has made remarkable progress in the fight against polio; we are now 32 months without a wild polio virus in Nigeria.

She said that the outbreak which the country was currently facing was a different trend and needed appropriate response.

Braka said that the main goal of the response was to interrupt that virus, which could only be achieved with everyone collectively to bring out children to get two drops of polio vaccine.

She said the virus had been detected in three canals in Lagos-Makoko, Itire and Maracana, adding that so far this year, seven viruses have been isolated in the state.

Braka said the vaccine was meant for all children to take, irrespective of their previous vaccination status.

“The vaccine that we are going to provide is not the routine vaccine that we have given through the healthcare facilities or outreach services.

“We do not want any child to miss this opportunity, because it also has a defined period within which we are going to provide the vaccine.

“WHO recommends all children to get this vaccine; it is safe, it is effective and it is free of charge,’’ Braka said.

In the same vein, Ms Hayon Nam, the Communication for Development Specialist, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said the media was the most influential in disseminating information.

“We know that many mothers and caregivers do not know much about polio and, therefore, do not vaccinate their children.

“So, we want the media to send the correct information, raise the awareness to the people so that they can make informed decision for their children,’’ she said.

Dr Tayo Lawal, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Primary Healthcare Board, said the media was very crucial in the campaign to eradicate polio as well as critical to its successes.

“Definitely, your role as agenda setters, gatekeepers and influencers, analysers of the big data and controllers of a large portion of the market place where ideas are preferred and negotiated is undisputed, hence the reason why we are collaborating.

“Let us work out a strategic plan that is robust and effective in communicating the benefits of immunisation to the populace.

“We will be glad if you can oblige us space and time in your various media to propagate this message,’’ he said.

Earlier, Dr Titilayo Goncalves, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, commended the media for always being there to disseminate information essential for knowledge-based action on the part of other stakeholders.

“You have never let us down in the past, I know that we can still depend on you to take this message to every platform,’’ she said.

NAN reports that at the meeting, Rotary International donated 2,000 aprons to Lagos State Government for immunisation workers as a means of identification.

Edited by Olagoke Olatoye

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