By Teddy Nwanunobi
Abuja (Sundiata Post) — These are, surely, not the best times for the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Yari, who claimed that God decided to punish Nigerians with Type C Meningitis because of their sins of formication.
Yari, who made the claimed, on Tuesday, has already come under heavy criticism by the Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, who, on Wednesday, described Yari’s statement as “Islamically incorrect”.
Also reacting to Yari’s misguided claim, the Federal Government, while distancing itself from the Governor’s view, said that nature played the West African an unfortunate stroke.
“The Federal Government does not have views of that nature, and I am not sure the State government can really continue to make that statement. When things happen, yes, you can begin to look this way and that way for the cause of it, but like I said, nature played us unfortunate stroke; but that is not to say we committed sin or anything. It does happens that things occur out of the blues,” the Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire, said, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting.
Ehanire, who briefed the State House correspondents, in Abuja, also explained why it appeared that Nigeria was caught napping when the Type C Meningitis broke, leading to over 300 fatalities out of the 2,996 cases recorded in 16 states, 54 local government areas of the country.
He explained that, unlike the Type A Meningitis the country has almost succeeded in eliminating because of constant vaccination this past years, this year’s epidemic, which it described as a surprise, was caused by a total different strand of the meningitis germ, Type C.
He further explained that the unfortunate thing was that there was no cross immunisation, as being immune to Type A was not a guarantee that one is immune to Type C, adding that the none availability of vaccines for Type C also compounded the problem.
Ehanire disclosed that, aside from the 500,000 doses that the government was able to gather with the help of the World Health Organisation (WHO), another 826,000 doses donated free of charge from Europe was on its way, while the Ministry has also placed order for additional two million doses.
Ehanire who said procuring the vaccines were expensive as they can not be ordered off the shelve because of its short life span, assured that as the situation goes on the government will be able to determine, if it needs to increase the number of order or if the ones already in its possession which has been deployed will be sufficient.
“On the meningitis outbreak in the country and to allay the fears of Nigerians about the response of the ministry. there has been a very robust response of the ministry and the state governments of the states concern along with the Nigerian center for disease control, Nigeria Primary Health Care Development Agencies, World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and other partners.
“What has caused this problem to be peculiar is that it is caused by a total different strand of the meningitis germ. It is the Type C. This country before suffers Meningitis around this time of year when dry season is turning to raining season in the area called the Meningitis belt that ranges all the way from Senegal down to Ethiopia, Eritra. And the prevailing germ was the Meningecocus A.
“And the mass vaccines that has taken place all these years has led to almost total elimination of Type A. Type C has been very rear and this year it is the Type C that appeared. Unfortunately, there is no cross immunisation, if you are immune to Type A doesn’t make you immune to Type C. And because Type C is very rear the availability of vaccines has been very meager relatively.
“We have mobilise vaccines to come in from all corners, 500,000 units doses of vaccines are being distributed and they have started vaccination campaign already.
“Government is also getting 826,000 units which are being shipped from Europe to us within the next fear days. The most affected states have been Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina and together they have about 85 per cent of the cases. As of today, there have been 2,996 cases in 16 states and 54 local governments . There have been 336 fatalities of which 141 have been confirmed by laboratory tests.
“There is reactive vaccinations going on already, there is social mobilization going on, teams are working in various states affected particularly the most affected ones. There are two treatment centers being set up in every local government and lumber puncture kits have been distributed so that doctors can take samples to laboratory for testing. There are cases of field epidaemologists who are doing findings and contact tracing in other to interrupt the spread of this epidemic.
“So, in other to alley the fear of Nigerians we want to make it clear that this is not a sign of the failing of the system, it is a fact that nature played a very different stroke this time that caught everybody off guard,” he said.
He also spoke on the cost of the vaccines.
“The vaccines are extremely expensive to make and if you acquire and store and you don’t use, it might expire and is bad business. So, companies make the vaccines on request and on demand and they store just as much as they calculate will be use. So, the Type C was not very much in demand but right now this present epidemic has led to a big demand. Like I said before, 500,000 was gathered from all over the place with the help of WHO and another 826,000 is on its way which is given to us free of charge from Europe and the ministry has placed order for additional two million doses.
“As the situation goes on we will be able to determine if we need to increase the order or if this one will be sufficient. You don’t want to order more than you need because there all have limited life span but on the other hand you need to have more of these vaccines to be able to take care of the epidemic.
“Right now, it seems there is a control going on, it is beginning to decrease in Sokoto State, Zamfara is still trying to even out and we hope that with the reactive vaccinations going on we shall be able to bring the epidemic to a gradual halt,” he said.
On why the government was not fully prepared despite warning from the Nigeria Meteorology Authority that there will be more heat this year, Ehanire said, “Yes, it is true there was a signal that this thing had started in Niger and was going to enter the country. Like I said before, it was the Type A that we have known that has worried us in the last years but the Type C came this time as a bit of a surprise because that wasn’t the pattern in the past. So, the preparedness for treatment was very much on ground but the preparedness for vaccines could not have been predicted until we begin to diagnose and do tests and discover that this is a different strend from what we had before and that the immunity you had before against Type A will not work against Type C. There is largely immunity against Type A in the country at the moment. If it had been Type A, we would not have seen an epidemic of this nature”.