The Ministry of Health has embarked on the vaccination of 50,000 people against hepatitis in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, South-south Nigeria.
The Commissioner for Health in Cross River State, Dr. Betta Edu, while flagging-off the vaccination exercise in Akamkpa council area, said that the government with the support of a non-governmental agency plans to vaccinate 50,000 people against hepatitis.
Edu stated that the vaccination was to reduce the prevalence rate of hepatitis B and C in Cross River.
“The prevalence of Hepatitis B and C are 8.8% and 1.1% respectively in Cross River. Over 16.2 million people in Nigeria are living with Hepatitis B and 2.2 million with Hepatitis C viruses”, she said.
According to Edu, most of those infected are unaware of their status and that informed the commencement of the screening and vaccination of citizens against the viruses since Monday.
“Our intention is to completely eliminate the hepatitis viruses through vaccinations. So, we are conducting free screening across the Calabar metropolis and in Akamkpa. While the vaccination of the rural people is free, those in the state capital pay a token of one thousand naira for the vaccines.
“I am satisfied with the turnout of people for the screening and vaccination especially around major motor parks and markets in Calabar. We are sure that we will reach these numbers of persons with the vaccines,” the Commissioner stated.
Edu explained that the ministry would compile the contact of those vaccinated in the first phase so as to enable them access the second and third phases of vaccination for complete immunity against the virus.
She said “the hepatitis vaccines are to be given in three phases. All those taking this first dose would be contacted for the second and third doses in an interval of one month so that they get absolute immunity. We are committed to ensure that these ones complete their vaccines.”
On the way the hepatitis virus is contacted, Edu said “Hepatitis can be spread through contact with body fluids, unprotected sex, sharing sharp objects and sometimes communal sharing of toothbrushes. We must discourage sharing of toothbrushes in households or amongst friends because that is one major ways members of a particular household can infect one another with the virus.”
She urged health workers, traditional, religious and youth leaders as well as the media to collaborate with the ministry to sensitize the people on the hepatitis viruses and need to protect themselves and their loved ones through immunity provided by the vaccines.
Supervising the vaccination of people at the Etim Edem motor park in Calabar, the State Focal Person for Hepatitis, Ekaette Obase said that the weeklong vaccination started with a thanksgiving service and screening and vaccination of church members on Sunday.
She urged the people to avail themselves of these vaccines and be protected, noting “mothers can transmit the virus to unborn children and it is easy for the virus to be spread through deep kissing, even sweat on the body of an infected person touching on another can get that person infected.”
Obase said “some of the symptoms a person with hepatitis has include very high fever, yellow coloured eyes, and dark urine. The stool will be changed, liver also affected and the person would have an extended abdomen including swollen legs. It is a very dangerous infection. So, I am encouraging everyone to come out to know their status by getting tested and if you are negative, there is vaccine for you because prevention is better than cure.”
“The best way to prevent hepatitis is through vaccination; it is the excellent way of prevention. The vaccination is in three doses and it is a cover for life. Within three months a person would have this cover for life,” she added