Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have funded the Sabin Vaccine Institute (SVI) with a $9.2m grant for a five year advocacy plan for sustainable immunization financing for 15 developing countries, with Sierra Leone inclusive.
This was disclosed by SVI’s Advocacy for Sustainable Immunization Director, Michael McQuestion, who recently paid a courtesy call on the Health Minister.
Speaking to Media Practitioners after a meeting with Health Officials, McQuestion explained that the reason for coming up with such an initiative is that “the cost of immunizing children is rising, due to the emergence of new vaccines,” disclosing that “countries need to increase their investment in immunization if they should sustain their immunization advocacy plans.”
He revealed that “the donors have funding now which is sufficient, but this is not going to be there forever,” he maintained.
The Director hopefully said that, “in the next five years countries like Sierra Leone should come up with their own financing package for their own immunization programmes and it has to be sustainable meaning that they can keep it up indefinitely”.
Speaking on why government must allocate funds to immunization, he said, “we have done research in other countries and we know that if you immunize a cohort of children e.g. children who are born in Sierra Leone this year; when they become adult and joined the work force they would be much more productive and would add more to the economy than if we had not immunized them,” he explained.
Highlighting another reason for the allocation of funds for the immunization programme, McQuestion explained that the economies in Africa are growing, “Sierra Leone has a positive economic growth rate; hence it’s feasible that within five years the government would have generated enough revenue form taxes and other sources so that they can actually make an investment in immunization,” he explained.
The Director explained that the institute is taking a technical approach “we are using data to make our case. We are going to show how many children get immunized for every dollar spent in Sierra Leone,” he revealed.
He then raised the efficiency argument that “if the government has small amount of resources… the smartest thing to invest on, is a programme that is well managed; cost beneficial; positive and transparent, so that the allocated amount could be traced all the way to beneficiaries.”
This, he said, would show that resources have been well managed and the service has reached the people who actually needed it.
The institute, he explained have the full support of the partner agencies that are already helping to fund the immunization i.e. WHO, World Bank, UNICEF and Global Alliance for Vaccines Immunization, adding that all of these partners are now funding “80% of immunization in Sierra Leone and all the other 65 countries.”
The advocacy plan for sustainable immunization financing, Technical Adviser for Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, Clifford Kamara explained that the fiscal gaps for immunization are growing and that many decision makers are not familiar with the economics of immunization.
He averred that a mix of new domestic and external funding is needed to close the fiscal gaps.
One of the measurable objectives of the advocacy plan highlighted was the increase share and amount of government funding for immunization.
By Ophaniel Gooding