Invest in healthcare, not COVID-19 vaccines

The co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, has reiterated the need for Nigeria to prioritise the development of its health sector rather than focusing on the COVID-19 vaccines.

Speaking during an interview session with journalists on Tuesday, Mr Gates said the country should divert resources budgeted for approved COVID-19 vaccines into the development of the country’s weak health care system.

“There is no doubt that the impact of putting money into the health system particularly the primary healthcare system will be very high in terms of saving children’s lives.

“Nigeria should not divert the very limited money that it has for health into trying to pay a high price for COVID-19 vaccines,” Mr Gates said.

His statement was a response to a question on Nigeria’s plan to invest about N400 billion to vaccinate 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population at $8 per vaccine.

Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, in December 2020, told the senate that N156 billion will be needed in 2021 while N200 billion will be used for vaccination in 2022, according to a report by The Cable.

But Mr Gates said Nigeria is already a beneficiary of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, a public-private global health partnership to increase access to immunisation in poor countries.

“The key is that Nigeria is still eligible, and so, for a lot of those vaccines, they will come through the GAVI facility that we have raised money for, ” Mr Gates said.

Most African countries, including Nigeria, are banking on benefitting from the COVAX facility, an initiative run by the vaccine alliance, GAVI, to ensure equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) backed programme, was set-up to divide a billion doses across 92 low and middle-income countries.

The facility promised access to vaccines for up to 20 per cent of participating countries’ population with an initial supply beginning in the first quarter…

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