• 4:16 pm April 18, 2017

In View of Outbreaks: Can Nigeria Produce her Vaccines (PART 1)

Kelikume Oliseh

Since the Meningitis outbreak in Nigeria, a lot of questions are gradually been raised about the competence of the health sector in Nigeria. Availability of facilities, unavailable or decrepit equipment, trusted hands and many others are constant questions but this epidemic raises new questions.

A thorough look at the NCDC twitter account and websites do not show us constant updates of vaccines available, vaccines to be brought in, venues for vaccination etc. This is very important for the right information to be made available as it will show how the meningitis epidemic is being tackled.

According to the CDC, “The success of efforts against vaccine-preventable diseases is attributable in part to proper storage and handling of vaccines. Vaccines exposed to temperatures outside the recommended ranges can have reduced potency and protection. Storage and handling errors can cost thousands of dollars in wasted vaccine and re-vaccination. Errors can also result in the loss of patient confidence when repeat doses are required. It is better to not vaccinate than to administer a dose of vaccine that has been mishandled. Vaccine management, including proper storage and handling procedures, is the basis on which good immunization practices are built.

This makes us ask, if proper vaccine storage and handling practices play a very important role in protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases; then why can’t these vaccines be manufactured here in Nigeria at our research labs? Will doing this not reduce the cost of importing vaccines from outside the country? Do we not have the equipment to create the vaccines? Are the medical lab and microbiology graduates not competent enough to work hand in hand in with the NCDC?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most vaccines currently being used for meningitis C outbreaks in Africa are polysaccharide vaccines, which are in short supply as they are being phased out in other parts of the world and the more effective and long-lasting conjugate vaccines, however, are not readily accessible for outbreak response in the region.

It takes approximately 10-12 weeks to make a vaccine and the first notification of this outbreak was in January. We are not developing a new vaccine or testing it which can take years. Could we not have saved many lives by now?

So far, GAVI is an international organisation – a global Vaccine Alliance, has pumped $40,238,758 into strengthening the Nigerian health system spreading it into 3 years – 2008 ($22,098,500), 2012($12,902,449) and 2013($7,437,809). This is  a total of $40,238,758.

Gavi Support for Strengthening Nigeria’s Health System (2008 – 2013)
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WHO defines six building blocks that contribute to a strengthened health system:

  • Health service delivery: a network of integrated and people-centred health facilities to provide access to primary and secondary care;
  • Health workers, in the right place, at the right time with training, experience and incentives;
  • Logistics and supply systems, including an adequate cold chain in place to deliver vaccines;
  • Health financing to raise sufficient funds for health and improve financial risk protection;
  • Health information and monitoring to generate quality data and to measure what is being done and achieved;
  • Leadership and governance to ensure that a strategic policy framework exists and there is proper accountability and oversight.

In addition to these six requirements, community mobilisation and demand generation are other areas of importance for a strong health system.

Nigeria urgently needs 1.3 million doses of vaccines. With a dose costing $50, that is approximately 65 million US$. When will we stop relying on others to solve our problem? When are we going to look within and create solutions for ourselves? And now we have missing vaccines. Two officials of Bungudu local council in Zamfara are yet to explain how 370 vaccines are missing but of with 400 I.V injections meningitis vaccines with only 30 of the vaccines accounted for. We take a look at the Nigerian Health budget in the next story.