Abuja, Nigeria - Nigeria's top government officials, civil society leaders and leaders of private industry resolved today to join forces to expand vaccine access nationwide, a major step in the fight to reduce child mortality in a country with the world's second highest number of child deaths. Among other commitments, the First Lady called for the creation of a fund to support the sustained introduction and scale-up of childhood vaccines as well as a biannual African Summit to assess progress, with the goal of achieving universal vaccine coverage for all Nigerian children by the year 2015.
"With over one million Nigerian children dying each hear from conditions that can easily be prevented by vaccination, we all would be failing in our duties as mothers, parents and leaders in the various segments of our society, if we don't take this advantage to do something concrete," said Dame Patience Jonathan, First Lady of Nigeria.
The discussions took place this week at Nigeria's first-ever national Vaccine Summit, which brought together leaders from across the nation to address the country's need to stem its precipitously high number of child deaths. Specific outcomes included a call to action for Nigerian policy makers and leaders from across traditional and religious sectors to commit to adopting and helping ensure excellence at primary health care facilities in their communities; a call to create the Nigerian Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (NAVI), a public-private partnership that would provide sustained vaccine financing from within the country's borders; and the announcement of the plan to convene a biannual African Vaccine Summit in order to measure progress against milestones set forth by the Decade of Vaccines.
Nigeria has taken important steps in recent years to address its child mortality burden, including increasing vaccine coverage rates for polio, diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus vaccines in recent years and regionally introducing the meningitis A vaccine, designed specifically to curb meningitis outbreaks among sub-Saharan African populations. Yet vaccine coverage rates still fall short of the 90% target, and more than one million Nigerian children die before the age of five every year. Studies show that scaling up new and existing vaccines to 90% coverage could save more than 600,000 Nigerian children in the next 10 years, and eventually add an economic value equivalent to $17 billion to the nation's economy.
"The actions taken by Nigeria's leaders this week are a critical step toward protecting Nigeria's next generation. We salute their vision, commitment and political will to make needed changes," said Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "Together with civil society, we look forward to assuring that today's political will translates into practical action on the ground."
An IVAC study conducted in collaboration with the government of Nigeria detailed what it found to be the most feasible and impactful Nigerian-driven solutions for scaling up vaccine access in the country. Currently, access to and availability of vaccines varies widely among the country's 36 states, and vaccine stock-outs remain an issue.
The 2012 Nigerian Vaccine Summit represents a collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Pediatric Association of Nigeria, IVAC and other Nigerian and international partners. More information on the Summit and its outcomes can be found at http://nigeriavaccinesummit.