The Nigerian government has been advised by William Henry Gates III, an American business magnate, software developer, and philanthropist, against diverting its limited health fund to try to pay a high price for vaccines for COVID-19.
Gates provided the advice during a virtual press conference on Tuesday night ahead of the launch of the 2021 Annual Letters of Bill and Melinda Gates. He said it would be best for Nigeria to wait for the GAVI vaccines, and investing proposed vaccine funds in other health-related areas would help deepen the coverage of vaccines and save lives.
Gavi is a multinational vaccination partnership that draws together the public and private sectors, providing fair access for children living in the world’s poorest countries to new and underused vaccines. Gavi co-leads COVAX, the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator cornerstone of vaccines. This includes the coordination of the COVAX Facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and fair distribution of possible vaccines for COVID-19. Mr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Agency for the Development of Primary Health Care, said that Nigeria was aiming to vaccinate 70% of its population to stop the transmission of COVID-19.
Shuaib said that in 2021, about 40% of the population will be vaccinated against COVID-19, the remaining 30% by the end of 2022.
Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, said the Federal Government needed approximately N400 billion to vaccinate 70 per cent of the 211 million population of Nigeria. “The key is that Nigeria is still eligible (for GAVI Vaccinee), and so they’re going to come through the GAVI facility for which we’ve raised money for a lot of those vaccines,” Gates said.
Gates emphasized that, in terms of saving children’s lives, the importance of investing funds in the health sector, especially the primary health care system, would be very high.
I’m a supporter of providing more money and prioritizing wellbeing for the government. I’m clearly not a voter in Nigeria, but Nigeria will independently decide.
So my advice is that what’s super critical is the primary health care infrastructure and that you have to prioritize spending of such scarce services. And in any situation, it will be better to wait for the GAVI vaccine,” he said.”
According to him, deaths from primary health care shortages have been significantly higher last year than the overall deaths from the pandemic in Africa.
And I think it encourages people to dig at these health problems in society. “The coverage of all vaccines should be close to 100% and you need to have these very functional primary health care systems because the number of lives you can save is absolutely enormous,” he added.