Since 2002 Nigeria has been receiving intervention assistance from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI). And as the government strives to overcome regional inequities in vaccine access to save children’s lives and protect people’s health, a number of constraining factors have been the bane of the exercise so far, especially funding.
Just recently, it was in the news that Nigeria will not yet graduate from the GAVI Alliance intervention funds until at least ten years from now. This is due to the extension of the ‘expiration term’ of Nigeria so as to enable the country get ready for proper take over. The information that was made public by the honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole was coming at a time the nation is battling to cope with how to bring to an end what is left of vaccine preventable diseases in the land.
The development is great news considering the huge financial burden the country is faced with in the bid to effectively pursue its obligation of stamping out the residual burdens of Polio, Yellow Fever, Pneumonia, Measles, Meningitis, etc, through the various vaccination programmes.
A recent event which saw the gathering of World Health Organisation officials such as the Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, etc. as well as heads of health parastatals in the country, underscores the importance and urgency of the battle at hand. As heartwarming as the efforts of the world body and its international partner agencies may be, Nigeria must not become complacent and therefore begin to rest on her oars. It rather calls for renewed and concerted efforts on the part of government to leave no stones unturned until we are able to say hurray!
As it is, there are a number of vaccination preventable diseases that still bedevil the Nigerian society. These diseases could be prevented and even stamped out through routine vaccination, and the country needs help towards attaining the feat before graduating. Most vaccines are usually short in supply thereby making the entire process expensive for a country like Nigeria. The local vaccine production resuscitation initiative already ongoing, side by side with the national vaccination programme, in partnership with well meaning international agencies such as GAVI Alliance is able to accomplish this dream.
In 2014 the Nigerian government had announced to the whole world that we are no longer a low income country but a middle income economy. As a result GAVI felt we were therefore no longer qualified to remain on the list of countries needing funding assistance. That meant that we have to graduate at least within the coming 5 year period under that condition. But having reasoned with the Nigerian authorities and seeing that the country is just coming out of recession, GAVI was convinced to grant Nigeria a special favour to stretch the graduation period from 5 to 10 years. But this did not come without a proviso: there must be a strong commitment from the government of Nigeria to put more money in immunisation.
This challenge should therefore put government on its toes, seeing that GAVI has given the country a ten-year period of grace to be up and doing, take over, and in the process meet up with task of immunising every available Nigerian child and citizen. The government and concerned stakeholders must at this time latch on this very opportunity to ensure strength towards attaining the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals through performance, with visible outcomes and results to show at the end of the day.
With the Federal Ministry of Health harnessing the contributing efforts of the various partners especially the GAVI Alliance, there ought to be enough funding for the importation, added to the inputs from local production which is expected to come on-stream in about three years time. In a nutshell, we should be looking forward to self sufficiency in vaccine production, and halting most of the vaccine preventable diseases that are still endemic.
Thus by seizing the advantage of the current opportunity, and through the use of intellectual resources for advancing these processes, the capacity for strengthening the health system to deliver immunisation and other health services in a sustainable manner would have been gained.