Sponsored by SIF Sabin, Nigeria held its first parliamentary briefing in Abuja, Nigeria today. It was chaired by the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Dr. Muhammad Pate. The 32 participants included the Chairlady of the Senate Health Committee, Hon. Mrs. Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, colleagues from the NPHCDA, WHO (including the Representative, Dr. Peter Eriki), UNICEF, USAID and Rotary International. The Chairman of the Board of the NPHCDA, His Royal Highness, Dr. Yahyah, was also in attendance, and the event was fully covered by the print and electronic media.

In his remarks, Dr. Michael McQuestion, the Director of the Sustainable Immunization Financing Program of the Sabin Vaccine Institute opined that although Nigeria is the thirteenth of the fifteen program countries, it has the potential to become the first to achieve Sustainable Immunization Financing. The country already funds over 70% of the routine vaccine costs, higher than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa. He emphasized the commitment of the SIF program to work closely with the NPHCDA and other stakeholders to achieve this in the near future.

In her remarks, the Chairlady of the Senate Health Committee, Hon. Mrs. Dr. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, apologized on behalf of her Senate colleagues, who could not attend because they had to travel outside Abuja to attend urgent political events. She emphasized that this is not a manifestation of lack of interest on their part, and assured all that the attendance will definitely be much better if the next event is organized at a more appropriate time.

Discussions after the presentations focused on the need to strengthen routine immunization activities; need for health systems strengthening, especially in the light of the introduction of additional, more expensive vaccines; need to introduce strategies and possibly legislation to “ring-fence” adequate funding for immunizations; and the significant contribution immunizations can make towards achieving the MDGs in Nigeria.

The symposium ended with a clear agreement by all that the good working relationship established between the various partners for immunization must continue and be strengthened. The process of information sharing, consultation, collaboration, and advocacy will definitely lead towards sustained immunization financing, thereby putting the country on the firm path towards achieving the MDGs.

For photos of this event, please visit our Flickr site here.