Immunization is the process whereby a person is made immune or resistant to an infectious disease, typically by the administration of a vaccine.
A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins . Vaccines help to stimulate the immune system of a person in order to protect them from reoccurring infections and diseases.
The presence of vaccines in the body introduces the immune system to the bacteria or virus weakened microbes, the body then produces antibodies to fight the weakened microbes and suppresses its effect, this helps make the immune system become stronger whereby it cannot be taken by surprise when the body comes in contact with the virus or bacteria as time goes on.
The importance of immunization to a child cannot be overemphasized, it has served as proven tools used to control and eliminate life-threatening diseases such as measles, polio, and yellow-fever e.t.c
Incorrect knowledge as to the preventive role of routine immunization is widespread in Nigeria. However, though immunization is key to a healthier childhood, there are still problems faced with immunization in Nigeria, they are stated below.
Inaccurate Knowledge about the Function of Immunization
Misconception of immunization as to their preventive function poses a serious problem in Nigeria. A research conducted in six states in Nigeria in 2004 explains that some diseases that cannot be vaccinated against, such as cholera, malaria, epilepsy are believed by the locals that vaccination cures these kinds of diseases.
In March 2005, Katsina state, immunization nurses and organizers concluded that only polio immunization is more than enough to protect a child from all childhood diseases even those diseases which there are no vaccinations to.
The most people who are likely to have this false knowledge include illiterates, and those who do not have access to effective and well-informed health officials and facilities.
Inadequate Storage Facility
The unavailability of effective storage facility is also a major problem of immunization in Nigeria. The cold chain has become quite ineffective and has been unable to be repaired, despite the fact that Nigeria has received large quantities of this equipment.
In some states in Nigeria, cold chain equipments are poorly stored or handled. Also, during the transportation of these vaccines from one place to another, some have been mishandled or improperly stored and has thereby reduced the potency of the vaccines which in turn can seriously affect a child’s health thereby confirming the fear of the locals that immunization kills children rather than protect them.
In some parts of the northern states, immunization is considered a sin against their belief. Muslim states have very little immunization coverage and the lowest on the list are the north-west states. Influence of religion. In Nigeria, the greatest challenge to the acceptance of immunization is a religious one especially among the northern Nigerian Muslims. Generally, the Muslim north has the low immunization coverage, the least being 6%(northwest) and the highest being 44.6% (southeast).
However, in the south, eastern and western states in Nigeria, there is a higher level of awareness about immunization but this is only restricted to the Christian areas as the Muslims in the west have even lower immunization coverage due their religious beliefs and poor education.
In Nigeria, there are several policies that affect the health sector. The poor coverage of immunization in the northern states can be traced to the inadequacy and ineffectiveness of the government officials to provide enough vaccines and immunization facilities to the locals. These political problems included low government commitment to ensure the fulfilment of EPI policy as well as over-centralization in the administration of EPI at the federal level of governance in Nigeria
At the state levels, there have been cases of frequent reshuffling of civil servant staffs and sometimes unqualified staffs are appointed to take over responsibilities meant to be handled by experts. These governmental policies do play a critical role that contributes to the problems of immunization in Nigeria.
One of the major problems facing immunization in Nigeria is the negative belief held by some religious individuals and some parents. A lot of people reject immunization because of the stories they hear from false rumors and incorrect facts.
The Muslims belief that immunization is an undercover plan instigated by the westerners to reduce the Muslim population, with this negative belief it becomes almost impossible for immunization to cover most part of the northern states such as Jigawa, Kano and Yobe states. This sort of negative understanding has resulted to a high deficiency of immunization coverage in the north.
Inadequate Facilities, Supplies and Vaccines
The main duty of the federal government is to provide the facilities needed to state and local government to carry a successful immunization program, apparently that hasn’t been the case so far, as the government has proven to be highly incompetent and disorganized in this department and as well other sectors of the Nigerian economy.The supply of vaccines has always been problematic for Nigeria, primarily because funds were not sufficient and were not released on time
There have been cases of withheld funds, according to a research in 2002, the government did not give up any financial assistant to the health sector and in March 2003, the government had just only made it a budget that had not yet been approved.
The inability of the government to supply vaccines on time can lead to an outbreak of diseases and apparently this happens mostly in the north and a very few parts in the east and this I can say, is the core cause of the problems of immunization in Nigeria.
The negative responses, attitude and behavior of the nurses also contribute to one of the problems of immunization in Nigeria. Some mothers have complained about the rudeness of the nurses and it has been one of the major reasons why immunization has not been taken very serious by these mothers.
Also the nurses’ negative attitude towards work exhibited in their lateness to work has caused some mother to wait for an overbearing period of time thereby losing out on their pre-planned schedule especially for those mothers with a busy schedules and even at that, these nurses rarely or never apologize for their lateness or bad attitude.
Some mothers have also complained about the nurses’ rudeness to them when they arrive late, even sometimes they override the “first-come-first-serve” rule and begin with those they are more familiar with, thereby ignoring those that came around first.
These bad attitudes exhibited by the nurses have caused a gradual reduction in the population of women who would come around to get their child immunized.
Health of the Child
Sometimes the health of the child can be posing as a huge barrier that faces immunization in Nigeria. In a situation where a child is malnourished and sick, it becomes almost impossible to get such a child immunized especially when the child even becomes sick on the day he/she is supposed to get immunized.
Unavailability of Parents
The unavailability of a mother can disrupt the immunization process. The failure of a parent to present the child for immunization on the appointed day is also problem that faces immunization in Nigeria, this usually happens when such a parent is crippled with the fear that the vaccines provided are not safe enough for their child.
The long waiting hours and inconvenient immunization hours also discourages most women from bringing their child in for immunization.
These problems can be sorted when the government decides to take the girdle of their responsibility a lot more serious and becomes effective about it. The release of funds should be done early enough to avoid outbreak of diseases and immunizations facilities should be provided and well-managed by competent and polite experts/staffs. Carrying out a mass campaign in the rural areas to educate the locals about the importance of immunization and its functions in the human body can help reduce the effects of the immunization barriers.