By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Kenya has kicked off its 2017 immunization effort with a polio campaign this week, targeting 2.9 million children aged five years and under.
The campaign, January 18-22, is targeting 15 counties that are that are considered on higher risk and vulnerable and which are mainly situated in remote, hard-to-reach and border areas.
The campaign also covers Nairobi County, the travel hub that brings the rest of the world into Kenya. The other counties include: Isiolo, Samburu, West Pokot, Turkana, Marsabit, Garissa, Tana River, Wajir, Lamu, Bungoma, Busia and Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia, Nairobi and Mandera.
The campaign or supplementary immunization activity (SIA) marks the country’s commitment to avert any possible polio outbreak given renewed threats of polio due to an outbreak in Borno State Nigeria last July and August.
Since then, countries in the Horn of Africa region have committed to initiate polio campaigns to ensure the region continues to be safe. The cases in Nigeria became evident after the conflict area associated with the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno State became more accessible.
Before then, Nigeria, Africa and the global polio eradication community had enjoyed some relief after Nigeria was removed from the list of polio endemic countries in 2015 after going without a case for a year.
Speaking at the national launch in Isiolo County, Director of Health Services Dr Jackson Kioko said there was need to vaccinate children in this campaign in order to improve the overall population immunity especially in areas where routine vaccination coverage was low.
He said the outbreak in Nigeria last August had put children in Kenya at risk. He gave assurance that the vaccine used for the campaign was safe and was exactly the same as that used for routine vaccination in all health facilities, public or private.
He said about three quarters of children under two (73 per cent) were fully immunized while the rest were either unimmunized or under-immunized.
WHO Country Representative Dr Rudi Eggers said that until poliovirus transmission was interrupted in all endemic countries, all countries including Kenya still remained at risk of importation of polio.
“This is particularly true of vulnerable countries (including some of Kenya’s neighbours) with weak public health and immunization services and travel or trade links to endemic countries.”
In addition, he said due to the low polio vaccination coverage rates found in some counties, there were many children left vulnerable to the disease even in Kenya.
He called on the need for a comprehensive approach in which all eligible children (0-2 years) are reached with all the life-saving routine immunization vaccines (BCG, Measles, Pentavalent, Rota, Yellow Fever, IPV and others), regardless of where they are born, who they are or where they live. In remarks read by Dr Iheoma Onuekwusi, EPI lead WHO Kenya, Dr Eggers said evidence had shown that one out of every five children were missed by routine immunization services in Kenya as a whole and many more in remote, and hard to reach areas in Kenya. He said for effective disease control and eradication, there was need to strengthen and address gaps in routine immunization services and the surveillance system.
“To secure and maintain a polio free world, we must reach every last child with the polio vaccine through Routine Immunization services and during immunization campaigns.”
The launch was attended by among others Isiolo County governor, Godana Doyo who said vaccination was a sure way of protecting the child’s health and future.
Polio ambassador in Isiolo County Mohamed Abdulahi said: “If my parents had enabled my vaccination, I would not be dependent on other people for mobility (“Wazazi wangu wangenipatia chanjo ya polio singekuwa nasukumwa na gari ya kusukumwa”).
National polio ambassador Senator Harold Kipchumba urged parents and neighbours to get their children vaccinated, adding that once infected by the virus, the disability could not be reversed.
“All you need are two drops to protect the child from polio,” he said. Dr Eggers also said no efforts were being spared to interrupt transmission of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in the endemic countries. These are Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. In 2016, 35 polio cases caused by wild type virus were detected from these three countries he added, in a speech read by Dr Iheoma Onuekwusi, EPI lead at WHO Kenya. He said the wild Poliovirus type 2 (WPV2) had been eradicated completely in 1999 while type 3 was virtually on the verge of eradication since it has not been detected anywhere in the world since November 2012. “The remaining strain, Type 1 WPV, could be eradicated with more effort on our part”, he added.
How real is the threat of polio?
The threat is real and has to be taken seriously, given the pattern in the last few outbreaks which emerged from the West African region. The last outbreak in 2013 also originating in Nigeria found its way into Kenya through Somalia. This was followed by numerous campaigns to ensure that every child was reached and through efforts to strengthen routine immunization and surveillance.
The last Horn of Africa Technical Advisory Group (TAG) meeting in September called on countries to avert any re-importation of polio. Dr Jean-Marc Olive, the chair of the TAG, said that given the
population movement pathways from West Africa to the region, the immunity surveillance gaps and declining routine immunization and previous history in Horn of Africa countries, the region was
vulnerable to an importation of the virus.
“After polio virus was identified in Borno state in Nigeria, we have to ask ourselves if there could be a Borno-like situation in our countries in the Horn-of-Africa, where we are missing transmission for a long period,” he said. Each country needed to find its ‘weakest point’ that they would focus on, he added. The virus in Nigeria is believed to have circulated without being detected for about five years and had possibly been exported to neighboring countries. Borno State is an insecure area whose access had been hampered by the Boko Haram insurgents and surveillance severely limited with close to half of settlements inaccessible.
Stakeholders Form Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products
By Dipo Olowookere
Some critical stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria have come together to form a group aimed at frustrating and subsequently chasing makers of fake and substandard drugs out of business.
The group, known as the Coalition Against Counterfeit Pharmaceutical Products (CACPP), already has the support of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the major drug manufacturers in the country, distributors, retailers, and others.
At the unveiling of the coalition in Lagos on Monday, the convener of CACPP, Mr Yomi Badejo-Okusanya, who is also the chief executive of CMC Connect, disclosed that the initiative was borne out of the desire to rid the country of counterfeit drugs and save lives of consumers, who take drugs to get better.
“It is borne out of the desire to take a firmer stand against counterfeit pharmaceutical products in Nigeria through engagement and advocacy, with hope to kick off an intense national advocacy campaign against counterfeit pharmaceutical products,” he stated.
He stated that the group has mapped out strategies to achieve these goals, assuring that the coalition was focused and would not be derailed, no matter what.
According to him, CACPP found out that people consume counterfeit pharmaceutical products due to ignorance, poverty, and illiteracy.
While the West Africa Country Manager of Pfizer, Mr Olayinka Subair, agrees with this point, he stressed that, “Counterfeit medicines don’t cure any disease, rather they put patients’ health at risk because of their contents,” noting that fake drugs “ultimately impede the Nigerian healthcare system as lives are lost and medical conditions worsened due to this cankerworm. It is not an individual’s battle; it requires collective effort.”
“Nigerians need to champion the anti-counterfeit cause, especially as regards healthcare. We need to join hands together because there is no shortcut to health. Due process must be followed to get the best results.
“Unlike commodities, fake drugs are life-threatening. This means patients should only buy prescribed medicines from accredited pharmacies and not quacks or roadside vendors,” he stressed.
Also, the Deputy Director of the Federal Task Force on Counterfeit Substandard Regulated Products Investigation and Enforcement at NAFDAC, Mrs Florence Uba, who represented the acting director-general of the agency, assured the group of the full support of the regulatory agency.
However, she emphasised that NAFDAC would not entertain any favouritism as any fake drug maker caught would be severely dealt with, no matter the connection.
In his presentation, the president of the Nigerian Representatives of Overseas Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (NiroPharm), Mr Femi Soremekun, stated that, “In recent years, the fight against counterfeit pharmaceutical products has taken new dimensions due to the global influx of counterfeiting syndicates, it is like a race against time for pharmaceutical companies – the cost to our collective health and economies is enormous.”
“Over the years, pharmaceutical companies have been perplexed as to how best to nip the challenges in the bud. The challenges are overwhelming owing to the sophistication of the activities of counterfeiters.
“Combating counterfeit pharmaceutical products is a herculean task, one that requires strong collaborations between government agencies and key stakeholders because of the impact,” he added.
It was agreed by the stakeholders present at the event yesterday that to combat the illicit trade of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, there is a strong need for collaboration and must look beyond the surface, which is most times in-ward.
Business Post reports that other organisations which threw their full weight behind CACPP include the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria (PCN), the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), and the Pharmaceutical Wholesalers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (PWDAN), among others.
Also, a prominent Nigerian actor and filmmaker, Mr Ayo Badmus, has backed the initiative as its brand ambassador.
Stanbic IBTC Gives Better Conditions for Healthcare Loan
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
Healthcare practitioners intending to get short-term funding support to expand their operations can now do so with better terms from Stanbic IBTC Bank.
The company, which is a subsidiary of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, introduced a package called Healthcare Short-term Loan, which many stakeholders in the health industry have accessed.
In order to make it easier for practitioners to access the credit facility for an improved healthcare sector in the country, the lender has upgraded its short-term loan solution within the healthcare value chain.
This upgrade ensures a flexible repayment period, with an affordable interest rate and zero collateral to enable sector players to access better financing and achieve optimal service delivery.
The healthcare loan, which now offers a longer tenor of 12 months, affordable interest rate and zero collateral, will foster more investment in the sector and enhance strategic relationships to generate new businesses.
Speaking at the Medic West Africa Conference, the Head of Specialized Sectors at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Ms Jane Ike-Okoli, noted that effective collaboration between financial institutions and healthcare organizations is key to advancing Nigeria’s health sector.
She advised financial institutions to be more intentional about complementing the government’s efforts, saying, “Stanbic IBTC has a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare industry and its intricacies. This knowledge inspires us to continue to design innovative yet affordable solutions to boost healthcare businesses across the country.”
According to her, despite Nigeria being Africa’s largest healthcare market, challenges in the health sector include inadequate healthcare infrastructure and insufficient financing.
“Stanbic IBTC is passionate about driving change, hence our partnership with key stakeholders in the healthcare sector to improve access to healthcare finance.
“We achieve this by offering flexible funding options for healthcare businesses and providers and strategically partnering with the players in the healthcare ecosystem,” she said.
“Our healthcare solutions are tailor-made for businesses in the sector who need working capital to expand healthcare operations, acquire medical equipment, facilitate medical research, and ultimately grow their healthcare businesses,” Ms Ike-Okoli added.
The Head of Coverage, Commercial Clients at Stanbic IBTC Bank, Mr Babatunde Akindele, also stated that the newly improved healthcare short-term loan is a necessary investment.
“Healthcare is a basic need that everyone should access easily. The pandemic has increased the pressure on the health sector by revealing the urgent need to expand healthcare facilities. Stanbic IBTC has taken yet another step in the right direction to improve healthcare infrastructure and enable qualitative service delivery, which will restore the hope of many Nigerians,” he said.
The growth of the Nigerian healthcare sector rests on impactful and innovative finance solutions positioned to create a level playing field for businesses to thrive. Stanbic IBTC has said it remains committed to blazing the trail in this regard.
UK’s Aide Health Raises £1m to Tackle Hypertension, Pain
By Adedapo Adesanya
Aide Health, a London, UK-based health-tech startup, has raised £1 million in pre-seed funding.
The round was led by Hambro Perks through its EIS fund, with participation from Fuel Ventures, 1818 Ventures and APX Ventures.
In a statement made available to Business Post on Friday, the company intends to use the funds to expand its services to include hypertension and chronic pain.
Co-founded by Mr Ian Wharton (CEO) and Mr Brian Snyde, Aide Health is a digital platform that helps patients and their clinicians understand and manage long-term health conditions, such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and IBD, paired with a mobile app for the patient which acts as a co-pilot through their care.
Medical professionals can use Aide Health’s platform to remotely monitor patients with chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and IBD. Patients monitored through the app can also receive medical advice.
“Like many people, I know first-hand the frustrations of trying to manage long-term conditions,” said Mr Wharton, CEO of Aide Health.
“Our goal is to give both patients and clinicians the tools and insights they need to have better conversations and make more informed treatment decisions together,” he added.
On his part, Mr Nicholas Sharp, head of the Hambro Perks Growth EIS Fund, said: “Ian and Brian’s vision and experience impressed us from the start, and we believe that Aide Health has the potential to be a hugely important tool for both clinicians and patients for managing long-term health conditions.”
Using natural language, Aide Health has short, daily conversations to help with the day-to-day management of health conditions through medicines optimisation, structured monitoring and structured education.
The service is currently being used by the UK National Health Scheme (NHS), with a pilot launched earlier this year supporting people aged between 18-75 with asthma or type-2 diabetes.
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