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Nigeria’s TB programme has made significant progress – Minister

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Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, says Nigeria’s Tuberculosis (TB) programme has made significant progress.

He said this on Friday in Abuja, at the mid-term review of the TB National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2021-2025.

Represented by the Minister of State for Health, Mr Joseph Ekumankama, he said that the significant progress was in various areas.

According to him, there is significant increase in TB case notification with improved TB treatment coverage.

He also said that there was very high treatment success rate, good involvement of the private sector and communities in TB control and good collaboration between TB and HIV programme.

Ehanire said that in 2020 the National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control (NTBLC) programme took a bold step to address the low TB case detection by developing the NBS with the main goal of accelerating efforts at ending TB epidemic.

This, he said was by ensuring access to comprehensive and high-quality-patient-centred and community-owned TB services for all Nigerians.

He, however, noted that there were areas where improvement was needed in the implementation of the NSP.

“Some of these areas include bridging the gap in TB financing by increasing domestic funding for TB control.

“Accelerating efforts toward finding and treating the remaining missing TB cases, fostering collaboration with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

“Others are ensuring 100 per cent coverage of health facilities in Nigeria with TB services in line with the Universal Health Coverage target, strengthening private sector and community engagements and scaling up TB preventive therapy.’’

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that goal of the NTBLCP plan is to accelerate efforts at ending TB in Nigeria by ensuring access to comprehensive and high quality patient-centred and community-owned TB services.

It also aims to enhance childhood TB detection and treatment through innovative provision of integrated services towards achieving childhood TB proportion of 16 per cent among all forms of TB cases.

Other objectives of the NSP are to rapidly scaling up TB preventive services with the number of contacts receiving TB preventive therapy increasing annually from 10,788 in 2019 to 588,218 by 2025.

In a goodwill message, Ms Racheal Goldstein of USAID office of HIV and TB control, one of the TB control programme partners, commended Nigeria for accelerating TB case finding in Nigeria.

“I think we are in a place that we did not expect to be at the beginning of the strategy and I congratulate everyone who has worked so hard together to make that happen.

“I encourage renewed focus and commitment that I know the TB community is putting on from childhood TB and working to find and identify those best practices and to do better turns,’’ she said.

Goldstein noted that the challenge of drug-resistant TB was enormous but that given what Nigeria had achieved, it could do more through the partnership.

She also said that Nigeria was also an example to other countries, not only in the African region but globally, for the way that it adapted to new diagnostic tools and treatment regimens.

“We are at a very critical juncture for the national TB programme. You are about to raise your Global Fund grant for the next three years.

“The U.S. government is committed to providing the technical support and the resources and service delivery support.

“This is to make sure that all the donor resources that are coming to Nigeria, along with government’s contribution and commitment are doing the best that we can to optimise for the NSP,’’ she added.

Dr Omole Fadare, who represented the WHO, also commended Nigeria and all the partners it has worked with overtime, for the significant progress recorded.

He said that the WHO was committed to continuous support of TB programmes in Nigeria.

Fadare added that it would also support the TB programme to use the outcome of the review to develop new grant applications that would run from 2024 to 2026.

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WHO targets immunisation of one million people, as Nigeria becomes first country to receive new meningitis vaccine

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is targeting the immunisation of 1millikn persons as Nigeria becomes the first country in the world to roll out a new vaccine (Men5CV).

In a statement on Friday, WHO said that the vaccine would protect people against five strains of Meningococcus bacteria and described Nigeria’s feat as historic.

It said that health workers would begin an immunisation campaign aimed at reaching one million people.

The statement said that the vaccine and emergency vaccination activities are funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which funds the global meningitis vaccine stockpile and supports lower-income countries with routine vaccination against meningitis.

According to the WHO, Nigeria is one of the 26 meningitis hyper-endemic countries in Africa, situated in the area known as the African Meningitis Belt.

It noted that in 2023, there was a 50 percent jump in annual meningitis cases reported across Africa.

“In Nigeria, an outbreak of Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) serogroup C outbreak, led to 1,742 suspected meningitis cases, including 101 confirmed cases and 153 deaths in seven of the 36 Nigerian states between October 2023 and March 2024.”

The states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe, and Zamfara.

“To quell the deadly outbreak, a vaccination campaign was undertaken on March 25–28, 2024, to initially reach more than one million people aged 1-29 years,” it said.

The statement noted that meningitis is a serious infection that leads to the inflammation of the membranes (meninges) that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

“There are multiple causes of meningitis, including viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic pathogens.”

“Symptoms often include headache, fever, and stiff neck. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious and can also result in septicaemia (blood poisoning). It can seriously disable or kill within 24 hours,” the statement added.

It quoted WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying that meningitis was an old and deadly foe, adding that the new vaccine holds the potential to change the trajectory of the disease, preventing future outbreaks and saving many lives.

“Nigeria’s rollout brings us one step closer to our goal of eliminating meningitis by 2030,” Ghebreyesus said.

He said that the revolutionary new vaccine offers a powerful shield against the five major strains of the meningococcal bacteria – A, C, W, Y, and X – in a single shot.

All five strains cause meningitis and blood poisoning.

According to him, this provides broader protection than the current vaccine used in much of Africa, which is only effective against the A strain.

He said that the new vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce meningitis cases and advance progress in defeating meningitis.

“This is especially important for countries like Nigeria, where multiple serogroups are prevalent.

“The new vaccine uses the same technology as the meningitis A conjugate vaccine (MenAfriVac®), which wiped out meningococcal A epidemics in Nigeria,” the WHO boss said.

The statement quoted Prof. Muhammad Pate, Nigeria’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare, as saying that Northern Nigeria, particularly the states of Jigawa, Bauchi, and Yobe, were badly hit by the deadly outbreak of meningitis.

“This vaccine provides health workers with a new tool to both stop this outbreak and also put the country on a path to elimination,” Pate said.

According to him, Nigeria has done a lot of work preparing health workers and the health system for the rollout of the new vaccine.

“We got invaluable support from our populations in spite of the fasting period, and from our community leaders, especially the Emir of Gumel in Jigawa, who personally launched the vaccination campaign in the state.

“We’ll be monitoring progress closely and hopefully expand the immunisation in the coming months and years to accelerate progress,” he said.

The Minister said that the new multivalent conjugate vaccine took 13 years of effort and was based on a partnership between PATH and the Serum Institute of India.

“Financing from the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office was critical to its development,” he said.

Pate said that in July 2023, WHO prequalified the new Men5CV vaccine (which has brand name MenFive®), and in October 2023, it issued an official recommendation to countries to introduce the new vaccine.

According to him, Gavi allocated resources for the Men5CV rollout in December 2023, which are currently available for outbreak response through the emergency stockpile managed by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on vaccine provision.

He added that the rollout, through mass preventive campaigns, was expected to start in 2025 across countries of the Meningitis Belt.

UK Minister for Development and Africa, Mr Andrew Mitchell, was also quoted as saying that the rollout of one million vaccines in northern Nigeria would help save lives, prevent long-term illness, and boost the goal of defeating meningitis globally by 2030.

“This is exactly the kind of scientific innovation supported by the UK, which I hope is replicated in years to come, to help us drive further breakthroughs, including wiping out other diseases,” Mitchell said.

He said that WHO has been supporting the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) in responding to the meningitis outbreak in the country.

According to him, the areas of support include disease surveillance, active case finding, sample testing, and case management.

“WHO and partners have also played a vital role in supporting Nigeria to prepare for the rollout of the new vaccine and training health workers,” he said.

PATH’s Chief of Africa Region, Dr Nanthalile Mugala, was also quoted as saying that meningococcal meningitis had tormented countries across Africa year after year.

“The introduction of MenFive® in Nigeria heralds a transformative era in the fight against meningococcal meningitis in Africa.

“Building on the legacy of previous vaccination efforts, this milestone reflects over a decade of unwavering, innovative partnerships.

“The promise of MenFive® lies not just in its immediate impact but in the countless lives it stands to protect in the years to come, moving us closer to a future free from the threat of this disease,” Mugala said.

According to her, in 2019, WHO and partners launched the global roadmap to defeating meningitis by 2030.

“The roadmap sets a comprehensive vision towards a world free of meningitis and has three goals, including the elimination of bacterial meningitis epidemics.

Another goal is the reduction of cases of vaccine-preventable bacterial meningitis by 50 percent and deaths by 70 percent, as well as the reduction of disability and improvement of quality of life after meningitis, due to any cause.

Chief Programme Officer at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Ms Aurélia Nguyen, was also quoted as saying that with outbreaks of infectious diseases on the rise worldwide, new innovations such as MenFive® were critical in helping the fight back.

She said that Vaccine Alliance funds the global stockpile as well as vaccine rollout in lower-income countries.

“This first shipment signals the start of Gavi support for a multivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MMCV) programme which, with the required donor funding for our next five years of work, will see pentavalent meningococcal conjugate vaccines rolled out in high-risk countries.

“Thanks to vaccines, we have eliminated large and disruptive outbreaks of meningitis A in Africa, and now we have a tool to respond to other serogroups that still cause large outbreaks, resulting in long-term disability and deaths,” Nguyen said.

According to her, following Nigeria’s meningitis vaccine campaign, a major milestone on the road to defeat meningitis is the international summit on meningitis taking place in Paris in April 2024, where leaders will celebrate progress, identify challenges and assess next steps.

“It is also an opportunity for country leaders and key partners to commit, politically and financially, to accelerate progress towards eliminating meningitis as a public health problem by 2030,” she said.

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NAFDAC recalls Benylin children syrups

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By Matthew Denis

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has recalled one of Benylin Paediatric Syrups, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

NAFDAC disclosed this on its website on Wednesday, stating that the laboratory analysis conducted on the product showed that it contains an unacceptable high level of Diethylene glycol and was found to cause acute oral toxicity in laboratory animals.

“Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans when consumed and can prove fatal. Toxic effects can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state, and acute kidney injury, which may lead to death,” NAFDAC explained.

Benylin Paediatric syrup is indicated for the relief of cough and its congestive symptoms and for the treatment of hay fever and other allergic conditions in children aged 2 to 12 years.

The details of the product showed that the product was manufactured by Johnson & Johnson in Cape Town, South Africa.

With batch number 329304, the product was manufactured in May 2021, and it is to expire this April 2024.

NAFDAC has, therefore, implored importers, distributors, retailers and consumers to exercise caution and vigilance within the supply chain to avoid the importation, distribution, sale and use of the substandard (contaminated) regulated products.

“All medical products must be obtained from authorised/licensed suppliers. The products’ authenticity and physical condition should be carefully checked.

“Anyone in possession of the above-mentioned product is advised to immediately discontinue sale or use and submit stock to the nearest NAFDAC office. If you witness any adverse reaction/event after the use of this product in any children, you are advised to direct such patients for immediate medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional,” the agency cautioned.

Meanwhile, NAFDAC has urged healthcare professionals and consumers to report any suspicion of substandard and falsified medicines to the nearest NAFDAC office.

Similarly, healthcare professionals and patients are also encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of the medicinal product to the nearest NAFDAC office, or through the use of the E-reporting platforms available on its website.

Also, the agency has directed the Marketing Authorisation Holder (Johnson and Johnson company West Africa) to initiate the recall of the batch and the notice will also be uploaded to the WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS).

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World Health Day: 250 people receive free diabetes screening in Asaba

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No fewer than 250 people have received free diabetes screening in Asaba, Delta, to celebrate the 2024 World Health Day.

The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Asaba Specialist Hospital, Dr Peace Ighosewe, who led other management staff in organising the event,  said the screening was part of efforts by the hospital to promote healthy living.

The World Health Day which was established on April 7, the founding date of the World Health Organisation (WHO) serves to raise awareness of global health issues and garner support for their resolution.

Ighosewe said that healthy living was key to good health for Nigerians.

She said there was a need to create awareness on the importance of healthy living and that everyone had the right to access good health at an affordable cost.

“We are also engaging in a health walk and talk, to celebrate the 2024 World Health Day,” she said.

Ighosewe added that the event was also organised in line with the theme for this year’s World Health Day, which is: “Your Health, Your Right.”

A cross-section of Asaba residents including the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Delta State Governor, Mrs Veronica Abang-Gwam, participated in the diabetes screening at the hospital.

Ighosewe further added that the general public was sensitised on the need to exercise regularly, to help maintain physical fitness and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

“Eat a balanced diet which will provide essential nutrients for optimal health; go for routine medical checkups to allow for easy detection, timely intervention and management of any health issues.

“In line with the ‘MORE Agenda’  of Gov. SherrifOborevwori’s administration, the Asaba Specialist Hospital will continue to do its part,  to empower members of the surrounding communities with the right information on the importance of prioritising healthy habits.

“These healthy habits can significantly improve their physical health, mental wellbeing and quality of life,” Ighosewe said.

Consultant Family Physician and Head of Department, Family Medicine, Asaba Specialist Hospital, Dr Dominic Uwadia, who also spoke at the event, said the hospital would continue to promote healthy living and disease prevention in the state.

Uwadia urged the people not to wait till they get ill before getting necessary medical attention.

The Medical Laboratory Scientist of the hospital, Ms Faith Emetonjor, also advised people to live a healthy life, noting: “Your Health is Your Right.”

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