What is your assessment of vaccine availability in the country?
Right now it is really good because there has been no stock out of routine vaccines in the last two years or so. But there will be funding gaps coming up, beginning from 2017 when the funding from GAVI will start to decline. We need to have our plans in place. We need to know how we are going to replace the money that is leaving from GAVI.
We need to know how we are going to fund the additions of new vaccine that are going into the programs.
Do you see government increasing funding for vaccines using the revenue from the country?
I think that is even the best thing to do because if you consider the alternative, if there is no vaccination and children get sick, it actually costs more to treat than the diseases that will come out of not being vaccinated.
What is your take on the local production of vaccines?
Local vaccines production have been spoken about, and it is something that that the National Immunizations Financing Task Team (NIFT) is looking into, we are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, and also with the Ministry of Science and Technology towards that.
You are one of those recently inaugurated as vaccine champions. What is the essence of the inauguration?
The vaccine champions are expected give voice to the issues around immunizations programs. We expect them to help in sustainable funding of immunizations , because beginning from now, the GAVI funding will start to decline and Nigeria needs to invest more in immunizations program so they are going to advocate for funds.
They are going to advocate for parents to take their children for vaccination. They are also going to advocate for health workers and the health system to deliver vaccines to all children, everywhere, regardless of where they are born, regardless of their socio-economic status.
In what ways can government properly fund vaccination as GAVI funding declines?
I think that the government cannot do it alone. However, the government needs to do more. So the first thing is that budget for vaccine at the federal level should be increased. At the state level, there should be budget for immunizations, and it should be increased.
And then , beyond government, we have to look at the corporate organizations. We have to look at private individuals, and also how we can either raise taxes or put taxes on some of the luxury goods items that we all enjoy. Even just a small amount of money from our recharge cards will go a long way. So we have to start sensitizing people that there is need for additional funding and government cannot do it alone, we all have to do it for ourselves.