Journalism of Courage

Gavi Ambassador, Awele Elumelu, seeks expanded collaborations for vaccinations in Africa

As Nigeria celebrates the 2019 African Vaccination Week, Gavi Ambassador, Dr Awele Elumelu, calls for more collaborations between the private and public sectors, as well as international partners to improve children’s access to immunization in Africa, and Nigeria in particular.

Elumelu, a leading voice in African healthcare and Chairperson of Avon Healthcare, called for partnership from the private and public sectors to provide solutions to Nigeria’s poor health infrastructure, absence of medical equipment and poor healthcare coverage, at a press conference organised by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency to celebrate the African Vaccination Week, in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

“The efforts to achieve widespread immunization coverage cannot happen without the effective collaboration of the public and private sectors. This is why partnerships with public health organisations such as the NPHCDA matter.

On the national scale, immunization yields healthy dividends for countries. Research shows that every dollar spent on childhood immunization will save $16 in healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity while providing a return on investment of as much as $44.”

With Gavi support, countries across the world immunized 65 million children in 2017, bringing total number of immunized children 127 million from 2015 to 2017. The non profit says it is on track to help countries immunize 300 million children between 2016 and 2020.

In Nigeria, data from the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency shows that about 1.9 million children under the age of one have been immunized against measles as well as other preventable diseases in the last two years, with figures expected to increase by the year end.

Vice President Yemi Osinabjo with CEO of Gavi, Dr. Seth Berkley; Mrs. Awele Elumelu; Hon. Min, of Health Prof. Isaac Adewole; Hon. Min. of State Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and other members of delegation recently at the Villa

Nigeria saw a rapid reduction in number of children without immunization from 3.3 million in 2015 to 1.4 million in 2018, with the number expected to drop to less than one million in 2019, the executive director and chief executive officer, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib said at the press conference.

“Working together with partners, traditional, religious, political and opinion leaders, we have achieved improvements in routine immunization coverage rates from 48 percent in 2015 to 57 percent in 2018 as revealed by the recent SMART survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics,” Shuaib said in a press conference to mark the 2019 African Vaccination Week.

Although vaccination coverage has improved in Nigeria, about 1.4 million children are still not vaccinated, promoting Elumelu to call for continued collaboration and partnership to ensure total coverage for Nigerian children.

“The fact is, immunisation is one of the greatest and most cost-effective investments that we can make to protect our children, safeguard their futures and give them a chance to live healthy, productive lives. The African Vaccination Week not only gives us the opportunity to celebrate our gains but empowers us for the work that lies ahead.

“As we mark Africa Vaccination Week, I am here to remind you that vaccines are safe, they are accessible and they are free. And you should trust me – I ensured that all 7 of my kids are vaccinated.


This is also a call to action for federal and state governments to support vaccination efforts by allocating more funds to the health budget. Lastly, change begins and is sustained through the grassroots. SMEs and entrepreneurs are key to delivering innovations to revolutionise healthcare,” she added.

It will be recalled that GAVI pleadged $1 billion to the Nigerian government in the fight against preventable diseases in Nigeria, according to the non-profit chair.

This year’s African Vaccination Week is themed “Protected Together: Vaccines Work” and emphasizes “the need for collective responsibility and inclusive participation of all in mobilizing human, material, financial, technical and logistics resources needed for implementation of vaccines activities in order to promote the health of children in Africa,” Shuaib said


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