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MSF Advocates Prolonged Vaccination Efforts to Combat Diphtheria Outbreak in Nigeria

In response to an unprecedented diphtheria outbreak in Nigeria, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), an international medical humanitarian organization, is urging sustained and long-term vaccination efforts. The outbreak has seen approximately 17,000 suspected cases and close to 600 recorded deaths, according to a statement released by MSF on Tuesday.

Highlighting a concerning trend, MSF reported that 70 percent of patients admitted to its facilities in Kano State were either not fully vaccinated or had not received any vaccination at all. The organization stressed the importance of continuous vaccination as the most effective means to curb and prevent future outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as diphtheria, measles, polio, or tetanus, which contribute to numerous deaths annually.

In its statement, MSF appealed to donor countries and institutions, including GAVI, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, to invest in vaccination efforts. The call is not only for immediate actions to address ongoing outbreaks but also for the implementation of a long-term plan to enhance vaccination coverage in the country and regionally. Diphtheria cases have been reported in neighboring countries, underscoring the need for a comprehensive and sustained vaccination strategy.

To address the current outbreak, vaccination campaigns have been initiated by the authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF. These campaigns will be executed in three phases across 14 states, including Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Yobe, Lagos, Nasarawa, Osun, Plateau, and Zamfara.

In Kano State, which has reported nearly 12,000 suspected cases, MSF observed that alarmingly low vaccination coverage contributed to the outbreak. The North-West region is particularly concerning, with vaccination coverage ranging from six percent in Sokoto to 18 percent in Katsina, well below the national average of 36 percent. Similarly, the North-East region showed worrisome figures, with only 15 percent of patients treated for diphtheria in MSF facilities in Maiduguri being fully vaccinated.

As MSF emphasizes the critical role of vaccination in preventing and controlling disease outbreaks, a comprehensive and sustained effort is crucial to protect the population from the devastating impact of preventable diseases.

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