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NCDC Emphasizes Pentavalent Vaccination as Key Defense Against Diphtheria

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) has reaffirmed that the most effective safeguard against diphtheria is through vaccination with the Pentavalent or Tetanus-Diphtheria (TD) vaccine. In a bid to curb the disease’s spread, the Federal Government is actively providing free, safe, and highly effective vaccines at all Primary Healthcare Centres throughout the country.

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Diphtheria, an ailment triggered by a toxin produced by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae, is a vaccine-preventable disease, and it is included in Nigeria’s childhood immunization schedule.

NCDC has highlighted a historical gap in vaccination coverage as a contributing factor to the ongoing outbreak, with the most affected age group being children aged five to 14 years.

Since the re-emergence of diphtheria was confirmed in December 2022, the Federal Government, in partnership with the NCDC and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, has been diligently addressing diphtheria outbreaks in various states across the nation.

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Regrettably, the results of a nationwide diphtheria immunity survey conducted in Nigeria indicate that only 42% of children under 15 years old are fully protected against diphtheria.

As of September 24, 2023, there have been 11,587 reported suspected cases, of which 7,202 were confirmed cases, spanning 105 Local Government Areas across 18 states, including the Federal Capital Territory. A significant portion of these confirmed cases, 6,185 to be precise, was recorded in Kano.

Other states affected by the outbreak include Yobe (640), Katsina (213), Borno (95), Kaduna (16), Jigawa (14), Bauchi (8), Lagos (8), FCT (5), Gombe (5), Osun (3), Sokoto (3), Niger (2), Cross River (1), Enugu (1), Imo (1), Nasarawa (1), and Zamfara (1).

Of the confirmed cases, 5,299 (73.6%) occurred in children aged one to 14 years, with those aged five to 14 years experiencing the highest incidence of the disease. The outbreak has also claimed a total of 453 lives, resulting in a case fatality rate of 6.3%.

Given the escalating situation and the revelation that 80% of confirmed cases in the current outbreak involve unvaccinated individuals, the Coordinating Minister of the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, has established a national emergency task team. This team is jointly chaired by the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the Director-General of the NCDC, and its mission is to enhance coordination efforts in the outbreak response.

The task force’s objectives encompass fostering optimal collaboration among all relevant health stakeholders involved in the fight against diphtheria.

Notable members of the task force include the Director of Public Health from the Federal Ministry of Health, representatives from the Federal Ministry of Information, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as various non-governmental organizations and development partners.

To reiterate, the most effective defense against diphtheria remains vaccination with the Pentavalent or TD vaccine, and the Federal Government is committed to providing these vaccines at no cost in all Primary Healthcare Centres across Nigeria.

The NCDC extends an invitation to the public to participate in the ongoing vaccination campaigns being conducted in all states. Parents are strongly encouraged to bring their children aged 0 to 14 years to the nearest government health facility for vaccination in accordance with the routine immunization schedule and any ongoing reactive vaccination campaigns in affected Local Government Areas as applicable.

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