By Asmau Ahmad
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari says steady progress is being made in achieving the targets set out in Nigeria’s Strategy for Immunization and Primary Health Care System Strengthening.
This, he said, could be seen from the preliminary reports showing that coverage for the third dose of the pentavalent vaccine increased from 33 percent in 2017 to 63 percent in 2019.
The president stated this when he received Gavi Alliance High Level Mission to Nigeria led by Dr. Seth Berkley, Chief Executive Officer of The Gavi Alliance and members of the Gavi Alliance, at the State House, Abuja, on Friday.
He said there was a drop to 56 percent in 2021, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding “however, there is a lot more to do.’’
According to president, the Federal Government will increase funding to the Health Sector through the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and other initiatives.
“Gavi’s disbursement of a total sum of 1.5 billion dollars in grants to support immunization and health systems strengthening in Nigeria since 2001 has significant results but I know that as partners we would all like to see this translated into an improvement in our health indices and outcomes, particularly in the area of maternal and newborn health.
“Our donors and partners have played their part in providing all the necessary support to improve our health outcomes.
“The responsibility therefore ultimately lies with the Federal and States Ministries of Health, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and other healthcare parastatals to place greater focus on exploring innovative ways of ending the lingering issues, improving accountability across board, and ensuring that value for money is prioritized in all health expenditure,” he said.
President Buhari noted Gavi Board’s exceptional approval for extension of Nigeria’s transition out of Gavi’s support, which was initially scheduled for 2022 to 2028.
He also noted the joint commitment of over three billion dollars to fund vaccine procurement and health system strengthening interventions across the country.
“I extend my sincere appreciation for the recent support you provided to Nigeria’s COVID-19 response efforts through the provision of 762million dollars in grants, free vaccines through the COVAX Facility as well as an additional 23 million dollars for vaccine deployment,” Buhari added.
The President said he received regular briefings from the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 and the National Economic Council on the ongoing efforts by the Federal Ministry of Health, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and partners to ensure an improvement in the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
He assured that the federal government would continue to honour its funding commitment for traditional routine vaccines and co-financing the introduction of new vaccines into the country’s Expanded Programme on Immunization schedule.
“We look forward to our continued cooperation with Gavi and other partners in our efforts to achieve the annual targets set out in Nigeria’s Strategy for Immunization and Primary Health Care System Strengthening and towards the attainment of Universal Health Coverage,” he added.
In his remarks, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said the GAVI team was in Nigeria for the annual review of the implementation of the accountability framework of the Nigerian strategy on routine immunization.
While in the country, the team would also be expected to support the establishment of a robust primary health care system and access to vaccines.
He added that GAVI had also been of immense help in accessing the COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility.
Chief Executive Officer of The Gavi Alliance said the last time he visited the country the foundations of the 2018 Accountability Framework were still setting, and the follow up visit was an important opportunity to take stock of the progress being made.
“I am encouraged to be able to report that the Government’s commitment to primary health care and immunization remains strong.
“While Covid-19 has set us all back, the on-going response, offers opportunities to strengthen systems to migrate against resurgence of the virus as well as the challenges of other vaccine preventable diseases,’’ he added.