By Chioma Obinna
With report showing that vaccination eludes 75 percent of Nigerian children, a professor of virology, Prof Oyewale Tomori, has said that the country has no business depending on donor agencies in the provision of resources for children’s vaccination even as he stressed the need to increase the awareness of parents and caretakers for vaccination to ensure that every child receives the full complement of vaccine at the right time.“
Tomori in a chat with Vanguard said: “We must reduce our dependence on donors and partners in the provision of resources for vaccinating our children. After all, when we are making the babies, we do not invite partners, why then should we invite them to take care of our children.
“It is a thing of national shame and horror that we are still begging for funds to buy the vaccines we need to protect our children. It makes more sense to plan for the number of children we can effectively care for, than having so many in the hope that disease and death will leave enough for us.
“What resource we waste in one year through misuse, misappropriation, and bare face looting is more than enough to fully vaccinate all Nigerian children we currently produce annually,” he stated.
“Continuing, for the country to have more children immunised at the right time, Nigeria needs more vaccine champions to work with the government and her agencies in the task of ensuring that no child is left behind in the vaccination exercise. “He disclosed that according to the Nigeria Strategy For Immunisation and PHC System Strengthening [Nsipss] 2018 – 2028, the country needs a total of $2.7 billion for procurement of vaccines over the next 10 years.“He added that the country also plans to provide about 80 per cent of the fund and source the rest from Gavi and other partners. ““An additional $600 million is required to fund the operations and systems strengthening for routine immunization,” he added.
“Nigeria is the country with about 4.5 million under-immunised children, the highest in the world. It is also the country with the most profound inequities in immunisation, not only between geographic regions (3 per cent in one State and 80 per cent in another) but also between income quintiles – 73 per cent difference in coverage between poorest and the richest.
“Many of our under-immunised children are likely to die from such vaccine-preventable diseases measles, meningitis, yellow fever and diarrhoea diseases as caused by rotavirus. We started going off track a long time ago when we underfunded our health and compounded the issue by “looting” the minimal amount budgeted for health. We missed the road when more than 80 per cent of our health budget went to salaries, sitting allowances, constituency allowances and such mischievous and miscellaneous expenditures.“
He stressed the need for government to earmark more funds to purchase needed vaccines required to meet the ballooning and unrestricted population growth, adding that there is also the need for an accountability framework focused on integrity and accountability to ensure that funds allocated for immunisation and other health interventions do not end up in the pockets of plunders and burglars of health funds.