The Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria has highlighted the critical roles played by community pharmacists in Nigeria, stressing that they play a crucial in the healthcare systems, particularly in the attainment of Universal Health Coverage by 2030.
The association also noted that community pharmacists could address gaps in routine immunisation coverage in Nigeria and increase uptake.
National Chairman of ACPN, Adewale Oladigbolu, disclosed this while speaking ahead of the association’s forthcoming 42nd Annual Scientific Conference in Asaba, Delta State, with the theme, ‘Building Effective Community Pharmacy Services for Universal Health Coverage’.
He said the conference aims to shed light on the crucial role of community pharmacists in providing accessible and quality healthcare services for all.
Oladigbolu explained that the conference will bring together renowned experts, policymakers, and community pharmacist representatives to discuss key areas, among which is the importance of community pharmacist services, opportunities, and to also examine the challenges faced by community pharmacists
He noted that the services of community pharmacists go beyond dispensing medications, stressing that they play a vital role in promoting the public health and well-being of the citizens.
The ACPN National Chairman said community pharmacists being the closest healthcare professionals to the people have an important role to play in primary healthcare services, especially in the area of routine immunisation.
He observed that with universal health coverage becoming a global priority, it is essential to recognise the significant contribution of community pharmacists and explore ways to enhance their services.
The World Health Organistion says immunisation is one of the most impactful and cost-effective public health interventions available, and that it averts over 4 million deaths annually.
According to the WHO, ensuring universal access to vaccines is a critical entry point for universal health coverage
The International Journal of Public Health, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, noted that community pharmacists’ participation in providing immunisation services is pivotal to expanding access to immunisation services, especially in resource-constraint settings and bridging the existing gap in the shortage of skilled service providers.
Going by this, Oladigbolu urged the Federal Government to integrate community pharmacists, which he said were over 8,000 in the country into the primary healthcare system, noting that their involvement in the private sector will supplement the efforts of the public healthcare system in boosting the nation’s routine immunisation coverage.
“What we are saying is that let the private sector also supplement what is happening with the public sector.
“80 per cent of healthcare behaviours are taken to the private sector and the Federal Government is spending 100 per cent of their healthcare budget on the public sector. Does it work? No. It does not work.
“So, you need to lean on private sector facilities, which are built for profit to supplement what is happening in the public sector,” he added.
The pharmacist noted that the country has an array of highly trained and competent community pharmacists within communities but has not made good use of them.
He said, “For example, vaccination coverage in Nigeria, even in urban centres, I am sure is still less than 50 per cent of complete routine immunisation. In rural areas, it is still less than 15 per cent.
“So, what we are saying is that wherever community pharmacists are located, they can help you bridge the numbers in terms of routine immunisation. That is why we are talking about the primary healthcare system. Routine immunisation is a primary healthcare service.”
Data from the 2021 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey and National Immunisation Coverage Survey indicated that at least 64 per cent of children between ages 12-23 months in Nigeria did not receive all recommended vaccines in the last five years.
Both surveys revealed that 46 per cent of children were partially vaccinated between 2016 and 2021.
Nigeria’s immunisation programme recognises the following routine immunisation for children – BCG (Bacili Calmette Guerin), a vaccine against tuberculosis; OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine), a vaccine against poliomyelitis; DPT combination vaccine against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus; Hepatitis vaccine for hepatitis A and B; Measles vaccine; Yellow fever vaccine and supplemental vitamin A.
Speaking on this, Oladigbolua said, “In the past six months, community pharmacists have been involved in COVID-19 vaccination. And they have been bringing in more numbers than what the individual primary healthcare centres are doing. So that is what we are saying; let us supplement the efforts of the public healthcare system.”
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