The lives of millions of children will be at risk between now and 2021 if the federal government fails to take charge of funding immunisation in the country, an official has said.
The Chairman, Health Sector Reform Coalition, HSRC, Ben Anyene, gave the warning while responding to questions from journalists in Abuja on Saturday.
He said the Global Alliance for Vaccines Initiative, GAVI, that funds all new vaccines in Nigeria has started withdrawing from the country and will withdraw totally in 2021.
He noted that GAVI has reduced its support by 20 per cent this year. In 2018, it will take off another 20 per cent, 2019 another 20 per cent, 2020, 20 per cent, and by 2021 it will withdraw the last 20 per cent making it 100 per cent withdrawal.
Therefore. Nigeria will have no choice than to start paying for its vaccines, he said.
Mr. Anyene who is also the chairman of the National Immunisation Financing Task Team, NIFT, lamented the poor funding of immunisation in the country.
He said,”Unfortunately, now, we are not even paying for the routine things. That is why I get worried when people see the 12.5 billion in this year’s budget for immunisation and were clapping but the actual requirement is N114 billion and nobody is talking about it.
“The question is, will Nigeria be ready to finance her immunisation 100 per cent by 2021 with the requirement of about 560 million dollars?
“Or is there any plan in the pipeline for that? And if there is any plan on the pipeline, implementation ought to start by now, we don’t have to wait till 2021 because already there is a gap.”
He recalled what happened in the 1980s when, according to him, the United Nations children Fund, UNICEF, started withdrawing and the Nigeria’s immunisation rate dropped from 80 per cent to less than 20 per cent in three years.
He further warned that Nigerians should expect the worst in the next few years if governments at all levels fail to act now.
He said “there will be total stock out of vaccines, unimmunised children will increase and that will eventually lead to mass deaths of children across the country. Those who are lucky to be alive will be incapacitated for the rest of their lives.
“The question is: How much does it cost to immunise a child? The total cost to fully immunise a child in Nigeria in his/her whole life is N13,000. Why can’t we afford it?”
While suggesting a solution on how the government can get the needed funding to immunise children in the country, Mr. Anyene said: “If you say each state government should put down 2 billion naira for immunisation for their people, is it too much? That already gives us 72 billion and the federal government can pay the rest. What is more important than the health of the people?”
“Alternatively, this oil we pump, dedicate, for example, two or three days to paying for immunisation. We know how many barrels they pump per day so that we can pay for the immunisation of our children.
“The worrisome aspect is that the people who are supposed to realise the enormity of these issues are not realising it, let alone talking about it. They are busy looking for money from partners,” he said.
Mr. Anyene, therefore, called on the federal and state governments to take proactive measures to avert the looming disaster in the country.
Last week, the Managing Director, Country Programmes of GAVI in Geneva, Hind Othman, pledged the continuous support of GAVI ho Nigeria.
She made the pledge during an engagement with the top management of the National Primary Heathcare Development Agency.