Hon. Rita Orji and Hon. Princess Olufunke Adedoyin both of the National Assembly in Abuja welcomed representatives from the Vaccine Network for Disease Control, a member of the WAVA coalition during an advocacy visit on June 13, 2017. Supported by WAVA Secretariat, the meeting was aimed at getting female parliamentarians to join the cause for increased immunization financing and become champions for equitable vaccines access.
In bringing the legislators up to speed on events, the WAVA delegation informed the stateswomen on the phase-out of Gavi funding support for immunization to Nigeria. As a result, Nigeria would begin full payment for its vaccines from 2022. Thus, the need for a transition plan that would prepare the nation for the impending exit of funding support and ensure adequate funds in the budget to buffer the financial gap to the immunization programme.
While receiving the advocacy team, Hon. Rita Orji said that vaccines are very important in their huge role in saving lives and preventing disease outbreaks. She was also of the opinion that vaccines being a crucial component of primary health care, are a primary preventive function of the health system, and thus should not require advocacy to make this evident. To her, speaking out for sustainable immunization financing was more than just an expression of interest. “Nigeria has to plan adequately to save our children,” she said. She committed to passing a bill on immunization financing and a transition plan, which if passed into law would compel the Federal Ministry of Health to adequately budget for the immunization programme.
In similar tow, Hon. Princess Olufunke Adedoyin was also very delighted to welcome the team. She stated that vaccines are an issue she was very passionate about, especially because she was a former Minister of State for Health. She also committed to raising the matter of the Gavi phase-out of immunization funding support as an urgent matter of national importance at the National Assembly. She said once this was achieved, the Ministry of Health and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency will be summoned and mandated to develop a transition plan for a clear funding programme and implement the plan. She also decried the delay in planning and preparation for the budget for vaccines for the first quarter of 2018, since vaccines have to be pre-ordered at least 6 months before procurement. She committed to set up an ad hoc committee on the issue so that a public hearing can be summoned.
The visit to the parliamentarians showed great promise as both women were passionate about the need for sustainable immunization financing. The advocacy team also administered a questionnaire to the legislators by way of an interactive question and answer discussion in order to measure the impact of the intervention after a 3-month period.
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