Few countries represent such a challenge when it comes to the scale up of immunizations than Nigeria. Consistently immunization rates have trailed behind neighboring countries. It is where we hear stories of whole communities rejecting immunization due to a misunderstanding about the purpose of these programs and mistaken belief about those running the programs.
At the same time, few countries stand to benefit as much from rapid scale up of these programs than Nigeria: child mortality rates are abysmal – on the order of twice as high as nearby neighboring countries such as Ghana. Barriers to immunization adoption have also stymied efforts to eradicate polio: it is one of the three countries in the world where the virus remains endemic. Even India – another vaccine basket case by historical standards – has managed to go polio free.
So I was not terribly surprised to hear that “Vaccine Summit” has been organized this week in Nigeria to bring together national and international leaders and experts to put increased emphasis on immunization in this country. This is what national and international leaders and experts do when things don’t seem to be working well.
What I was surprised to learn about, however, is new project that the Gates Foundation has launched in this country to help incentivize uptake of immunization. Called the Governor’s Immunization Challenge, the new program will reward a cash prize to the Governor that demonstrates the greatest leadership in improving both routine and polio immunization by the end of the year. This is not what the Foundation, which admits that it has a bias towards technological solutions to global health challenges, does. It seems like a departure from their regular business model of focusing on technical and operational barriers and an admission that things like leadership of health officials might matter a lot.
I wonder if this represents a new new direction for the Foundation in general? I sure hope so, as I believe it could be a very fruitful avenue to explore.Share on Facebook