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Gates, Dangote back $650m plan for vaccine


Two of the world’s richest men, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Nigerian entrepreneur Aliko Dangote, have backed a new N102 billion plan to increase immunise coverage up to 87% in the next two years.

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The National Routine Immunisation Strategic Plan (NRISP), expected to cost up to $650 million, hopes to ensure that more than 90% of local government areas around the country attain 80% immunisation coverage by 2015 by cutting out blockages that stop vaccines reaching children.

“This plan can only be implemented if funds are made available,” said Dangote at the NRISP launch in Abuja. “I have seen it, it is good, fantastic—it has captured almost everything but the implementation will not be done if proper funding is not there.”

In comments on behalf of private investors, the head of Dangote Foundation, “Even us from our own local end will contribute whatever is needed.”

Partners and federal government are expected to provide 68% of the funding, while states provide 17% and local governments 15% to back wider routine immunisation, which left more than 3.2 million children unvaccinated against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus last year.

Gates said poor financing, problems with supply and cold chain have meant Nigeria’s “vaccination programme in recent past has not operated the way it should.”

“Over 40% of childhood deaths in Nigeria are from diseases that if the vaccination system was working would not take place. That’s an extremely high figure,” said Gates, a co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of 12 partners on NRISP.

He said recent funding of vaccine programmes means more vaccines are available for use, but insisted, “these vaccines can only save lives if they get out to the children.”

He called the NRISP “a real opportunity to take the best practices from countries around the world.”

Health minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu maintained NRISP emphasised responsibility sharing and accountability, which he said was already in place from the earlier launched initiative to save one million lives by 2015.

National Primary Health Care Development Agency executive director, Dr Ado Muhammad said the agency hoped for sustained coverage to avoid a reversal.

HRH Sa’ad Abubakar III, Sultan of Sokoto, and head of Nigeria Inter-Faith Action Association assured traditional leaders would cooperate to see vaccine-preventable disease as polio kicked out of Nigeria by 2014.

Partners on the NRISP include WHO, UNICEF, Save the Children and Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative, which insists there is still wide inequalities in vaccination coverage by household wealth in Nigeria.

GAVI special representative, Mercy Ahun, said for every nine children vaccinated from richest household, only one from the poorest is vaccinated.

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