The country is working towards reducing chronic Hepatitis B virus Infection to less than 2% in children under five years by the end of this year, Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire has said.
He stated this on Tuesday in Abuja during the launch of guidelines for the prevention of mother to child transmission of hepatitis B. The launch was part of activities to commemorate this year’s World Hepatitis Day.
The minister said significant work was required to address prevention of mother to child transmission of viral hepatitis.
He said, “the robust policy on Reproductive Health, Maternal, New-born, and Child Health (RMNCH) to screen all pregnant mothers for HIV, syphilis and viral hepatitis presents a great opportunity that can be strengthened to improve prevention of mother to child transmission of viral hepatitis.”
The minister said Nigeria was endemic for both viral hepatitis B and C, adding that the National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey conducted by Nigeria in 2018 showed a prevalence of 8.1% for Hepatitis B (HBV) and 1.1% for Hepatitis C (HCV).
“We could estimate that about 20 million people are chronically infected,” he said.
Dr Ehanire said vaccination was a critical intervention in eliminating HBV infection by 2030.
He said Nigeria was one of the first African countries to introduce a birth dose of HBV vaccine in 2004 and also established the National Viral Hepatitis Control programme in 2013, to coordinate all national efforts and through this, developed National documents, including policies, a strategic plan, guidelines, training materials and a treatment center directory, which are in use today.
He said one of the major challenges of Hepatitis B birth dose vaccination was the inadequate domestic contribution to finance vaccines and expand access to services.
He added that Nigeria had made significant progress in this area in recent times and committed to a $3billion Nigeria Strategy on Immunization and PHC Systems Strengthening (NSIPSS).
“This is our plan for transitioning to financial ownership of the immunization and primary health care system over a ten-year period, from 2018-2028.
“All in all, the plan aims to address inequities in the uptake of routine vaccines and includes improvement of coverage for HBV Birth Dose.
“In 2019, HBV birth dose coverage was 59%. We hope to continue to increase coverage as we work towards elimination. It is important to note that Nigeria has not defaulted in its co-financing obligations of routine immunization implementation for the past 3 years,” he said.
WHO Nigeria Country Representative , Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo said public awareness on controlling viral hepatitis infections has increasingly become important to urge all adults who don’t know their status to go for screening for hepatitis B and C, and for children to get immunized for hepatitis B.
He said if all children were protected with hepatitis B birth-dose vaccination within first 24 hours of life, hepatitis B which account for 85% viral hepatitis in African region, could be eliminated for the incoming generations.
“For current generation, screening and treatment remain mainstay intervention. Indeed, this year’s theme of “Hepatitis Free Future” helps to highlight the importance of preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B as well as the need to scale-up prevention, testing and treatment both hepatitis B and C,” he said.
He said Nigeria was being commended for being among 13 countries, in the region, that have introduced Hepatitis B birth dose, hence contributing to notable global progress in the expansion of routine hepatitis B vaccination despite the continued stagnation of Penta3 coverage at 76% for over 5 years period.
World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis — a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E — and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.