By Ndidi Chukwu
How African Countries can ensure Sustainable Immunization Financing is what the April 19-21st Anglophone Africa Peer Review Workshop addressed. Nigeria is one of the countries in the African region which require the existence of a strong legislation for Routine Immunization Financing, to get its leaders and stakeholders committed to making funds for immunization available. In this article, Health Reporters Correspondent, Ndidi Chukwu writes on Routine Immunization financing situation in Nigeria.
The decade of Vaccines (2011-2020) envisions a world where all individuals and communities are free from vaccine-preventable diseases. To achieve this ambitious goal, the 65th World Health Assembly endorsed the ‘Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP)’, with six strategic projections for improved immunizations programs and access which envisions a world where, all countries will commit to immunization as a priority, individuals and communities understand the value of vaccines and demand immunization as both their rights and responsibility.
To ensure that the benefits of immunization are equitably extended to all people and strong immunization system is an integral part of a well-functional health system, immunization programs have sustainable access to predictable funding, quality, supply and innovative technologies and development innovations maximize the benefits of immunization for country regional and global research.
To achieve these global strategy, Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) which is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring a coordinated Routine Immunization activities in Nigeria and adequate protection of children for vaccine preventable diseases through immunization, has worked with all development partners in Nigeria to improve its immunization activities. The country has scaled up its immunization activities over the years and has attained a great milestone in coverage while helped it to maintain its polio interruption status for over 20 months.
The Agency through the National Immunization Financing Task Team (NIFT) envisions a nation where Immunization financing is prioritized by the government and backed with a strong legislation which would recommend the Nigerian Government to ensure funds for vaccine procurement are readily available without dependence on any form of donor support.
For NIFT’s advocacy for country ownership of Immunization financing to thrive, the NPHCDA in collaboration with Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Sustainable Financing (SIF) Program will this week host five Anglophone African countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya, during the “Second Anglophone African Peer Review Workshop on Sustainable Immunization Financing.
Sabine as a vaccine institute believes that sustainable financing for national immunization programs can be secured through the coordinated action of key national institutions, Ministries of Finance, Health as well as Legislators. Where ministries of health can show strong investment cases for their immunization programs and this will include demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of particular vaccines, documenting child mortality reductions due to vaccination, showing efficient program management and meeting other tests any public investment must meet. This peer review will help ministries of finance understand their responsibility of ensuring that funds allocated to the programs are disbursed in full and on time and that source of public financing are adequate and dependable, while, Parliament play adequate oversight function in promoting vaccination and public health in general.
The workshop assessed implementation of the country-specific action points developed at the previous Sabin/SIF Anglophone Africa Peer Exchange Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya last October, to identify, share, and cross-evaluate innovations and best practices in immunization financing, resource tracking, and domestic advocacy.
Participating countries will also analyze and review the laws and regulations on vaccines and immunization that exist or are under preparation in the participating countries, and document the status of ongoing legislative projects in each country after which they will develop new country-specific, short-term action points for achieving sustainable immunization financing.
In Nigeria, the cost of full immunisation is expected to rise when it includes at least four new vaccines into routine immunisation presently, full immunisation of a child annually costs N4, 000, but the introduction of four new vaccines could push the cost up to N14,000 total of $435 million a year, up from $274 million, according to the agency’s Executive director Dr Muhammad.
In a pre-conference press conference, organized by the NPHCDA, its Executive Director, Dr. Ado Muhammad said “Domestic funding for immunisation has to increase, funding from Anglophone countries is not as expected, and Government alone cannot do it. Hence Stakeholders are expected to support the Nigerian government to fund Immunization especially now that the country will be transiting from donors support.
Dr. Ado said the workshop will finalize framework to set up an ‘Immunisation Trust Fund’ to help pay for and make immunisation sustainable in Africa.
Chairman of NIFT, Dr Ben Anyene said the outcomes of the meeting are expected to launch all five countries toward final advocacy for the legislation and establishment of immunisation trust fund.
“The fund is to serve as an independent body to advocate, coordinate and mobilize funds for routine and supplemental immunisation for 2016 and beyond. It is hoped the fund will raise contribution from government, organized private sector, partners and willing Nigerians to bridge gaps in funding for immunisation,” Anyene explained
Commenting on how Nigeria can have a workable trust fund amidst public distrust from funds misappropriations which marred previous funding programs, Project Director of Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba said, “the trust can be built when an accountability mechanism is institutionalized for immunization financing.”
CHR which is leading in advocacy for improved funding and immunization program implementation in Nigeria through Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) project, finds the Anglo phone peer review workshop for Sustainable Immunization Financing as an ample time for Nigeria to learn best practices on how to fund its immunization programs.
An Immunization Trust Fund is certainly a way to go as the country begins its transition from donor support, but what is required is a strong accountability mechanism to drive this process, and build public trust for sustainable Immunization Financing in Nigeria.