The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has called on journalists to redouble efforts on public awareness to ensure maximum immunization coverage in the North-West States.
The Chief of Sokoto UNICEF Field Office, Dr Maryam Sa’id, gave the charge at a two-day media dialogue for journalists from Sokoto State, Kebbi and Zamfara.
The dialogue was organised in collaboration with the Primary Healthcare Development Agencies of the three states aimed at enhancing routine immunization and zero-dose reduction campaigns.
Sa’id said the dialogue was aimed at promoting the dissemination of accurate information, allaying the spread of misinformation and ensure that every child was protected with life-saving vaccines.
“It is essential to build on UNICEF’s strong partnership with the media to sustain messaging on the importance of routine immunization, highlighting what parents, caregivers, communities, traditional and religious leaders, decision-makers, and stakeholders should do to promote the immunization.
“Immunization is one of UNICEF’s global advocacy priorities, keeping conversations on routine immunization on the front burner of Nigeria’s public discourse is essential.
“To achieve that, strategic and constructive engagement of the media with its mass mediated news and information dissemination platforms is imperative,” the UNICEF chief explained.
Sai’id said that immunization was the most cost-effective, high impact intervention for dealing with vaccine-preventable diseases, especially in children under five.
“Vaccines are estimated to be one of the most cost-effective means of advancing global welfare.
“In fact the vaccine works and act as a protective shield for the children against deadly diseases”, she added,
Sa’id said, according to National Immunization Coverage Survey (NICS) 2021, Nigeria achieved remarkable progress.
She added that completeness of routine immunization coverage was 36 per cent while for the North-West States figure was only 25 per cent.
Sesay further said the UNICEF was committed to providing caregivers and communities with fact-based information on vaccines.
“Through community level engagement and building partnerships, UNICEF works to build trust.
“That involves developing alliances with the media, civil society organizations, and faith based organizations to increase awareness in undeserved and under reached communities.
“The recent outbreaks of diphtheria in Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara states were found to have occurred in locations with immunization zero dose children,” Sa’id explained
Earlier, the Communications Specialist, UNICEF Field Office Kano, Mr Samuel Kaalu, said the meeting aimed to inform the media of the current situation of routine immunization in the three states.
“We engage the media to raise awareness because people believe the media, we also engage media to deal with skepticism, false information, fears and doubts,” Kaalu explained.
The District Head of Gagi in Sokoto South Local Government Area, Alhaji Sani Umar-Jabbi, described community leaders’ engagement as the best way to ensure the acceptance of immunization activities and tackle disagreements.