By Rita Iliya
Any parent or caregiver, who prevents a child from receiving the polio vaccine, risks a two-year jail term, an official of a Niger State Government agency said on Monday in Minna.
Dr. Yahaya Na’uzo, the Executive Director of the state’s Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
“`The law establishing the SPHCDA, specifically sections 23 to 28, has made the rejection of immunisation services a criminal offence.
“Such offenders are liable to two years jail term, or a fine of N50,000, or both,” he said.
He said that Niger was the first to enact a law that would prosecute parents, who deliberately denied their children access to immunisation.
According to him, the passage of the Child Rights Act into law was also meant to protect the rights of the children and right to immunisation services.
The SPHCDA boss said that the state last recorded wild polio case in March 2013, in Dakwa village, a border town between Tafa Local government area and the FCT.
He said after that discovery, the state implemented eight rounds of immunisation, with about 2.8 million children vaccinated per round.
Na’uzo explained that this year, children would be vaccinated during routine immunisation against Tuberculosis, Hepatitis, Poliomyelitis and Diphtheria.
“Other vaccinations will be administered against whooping cough, tetanus, pneumonia, yellow fever, measles and diphtheria for pregnant women,” he said.
While noting that Niger had been removed from among the high risk states with polio transmission since 2016, he said that there was still need to improve on routine immunisation, “especially in hard-to-reach areas”.
He said that the state would implement only the January, March and April 2017 rounds of Immunization Plus Days (IPDS), since it was no longer among states with high risk polio transmission.
Na’uzo said that the agency would collaborate with neighbouring states such as Kebbi, Zamfara and Kaduna to ensure surveillance and reduce cases of missed children.
He solicited the support of traditional and religious leaders, as well as other stakeholders toward educating communities on the need for total compliance.