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Combining COVID-19 and routine vaccination: Nigeria implements a “whole family” approach

The whole family approach is helping Lagos State tackle multiple disease outbreaks and helping families lead healthier lives.

Chris Othuke, waiting to take his second jab of COVID-19 vaccine at Ogudu PHC


“There is nothing to be compared to the joy I felt the day I took my family to Ogudu Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) to be vaccinated against various diseases,” says software developer Chris Othuke. 

“It was like a family vacation, but this time around, we didn’t pay for anything. My wife and I received our second jab for COVID-19 and were screened for non-communicable diseases, while our children were given their routine immunisation. It was, indeed, a full package of quality healthcare services.”

“We were able to mitigate a third wave of COVID-19 virus in the state, prevent polio and cholera outbreaks while still curbing communicable and non-communicable diseases.”

Amid COVID-19, Nigeria is currently contending with different disease outbreaks including cholera and Lassa fever. To tackle these outbreaks, the federal government of Nigeria, through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), has adopted the “whole family” approach in the second phase of COVID-19 vaccination. 

The “whole family” approach combines COVID-19 vaccination with healthcare services like childhood vaccination, malnutrition and screening for non-communicable diseases.

According to the Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, since these outbreaks are interwoven and occurring simultaneously, “it is imperative that the whole family approach becomes more integrated and prevalent. This approach not only ensures the protection of eligible Nigerians against COVID-19, but also helps with the total health of individuals and their family,” he says.

He goes on to explain, “Through the NPHCDA, the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA) and the State Ministry of Health (SMoH), we are sharing information with residents on how they can improve their personal hygiene and water and environmental sanitation. This is particularly important in light of the large number of cases of cholera that we are recording across the country.”

The health officer in charge of Ogudu PHC, Funmi Akinjayeju, says: “As soon as we received the directive on the whole family approach, we quickly put all the necessary structures in place at the PHC and immediately embarked on an outreach campaign, informing residents of Ogudu local government area that the PHC was offering a family package.” 

Services offered by Ogudu PHC, a flagship centre, include antenatal service and delivery, routine immunisation and family planning.

“We also offer Directly Observed Therapy (DOT) especially for patients with drug-resistant TB, those with HIV, and those on intermittent treatment regimens. Plus, since the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination, Ogudu PHC was selected as a COVID-19 vaccination site.” Akinjayeju says.

“Due to the outbreak of vaccine-derived polio in other parts of Nigeria, we decided to embark on a polio vaccination campaign for zero to five-year-olds in the state. This time around, we didn’t wait for parents to bring their children to the PHC; we take the polio vaccine to wherever the children are, be it their homes, schools or even marketplaces.”

Akinjayeju says that they have seen an increase in the number of families who come to the PHC on a daily basis to access the health services, at no cost. 

“The whole family approach is helping us to fight many battles at the same time,” she continues. “We were able to mitigate a third wave of COVID-19 virus in the state, prevent polio and cholera outbreaks while still curbing communicable and non-communicable diseases.”

“This family approach has been a wonderful experience for me,” says Kemi Ola, a mother of two children who brought her kids for vaccination, adding, “From the day I gave birth to my daughter I have not missed her immunisation day and now, with the introduction of the whole family approach, I am been able to take care of my health needs as well. I have done family planning, cervical cancer screening, and received my COVID-19 vaccine. All thanks to the government and the nurses at Ogudu PHC, who never get tired.”