Nepal Enacts Bill to Strengthen National Immunization Program, Reduce Dependency on External Funding
KATHMANDU, NEPAL — February 3, 2016 — The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) joins global health partners around the world in congratulating Nepal on new legislation that will bolster and help sustain its national immunization program. On Jan. 26, President Bidya Devi Bhandari of Nepal signed into law, “Immunization Bill 2072,” a landmark piece of legislation that will make the country’s national immunization program more financially-sustainable as new, costlier vaccines are introduced.
Among its provisions, the law provides for a dedicated national immunization fund to allocate money for the immunization program. This innovative fund will include both government and private contributions. The Nepali government has already allocated 60 million Nepalese rupees, or approximately US$550,000, to the fund, which will be managed by the private sector. Proceeds will be used to purchase vaccines and support immunization delivery. The new national immunization fund will be supplemented by another fund created by Rotary District 3292. Both funds were established to push Nepal toward full domestic financing of its immunization program and reduce dependency on external financing.
“This legislation is an important milestone for Nepal in protecting children’s rights to getting quality immunization service; increasing country ownership; and sustaining the national immunization program by securing adequate funding,” said the Hon. Ranju Kumari Jha, chairperson of the Nepali Parliamentary Committee on Women, Children, Senior Citizen and Social Welfare. “I hope Nepalese children will be able to receive the full benefits of our immunization program. However, to achieve this goal, we need to work together to ensure the effective implementation of the law.”
This news is particularly important to Sabin’s Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) Program, which works in Nepal and 21 other countries to ensure increased and reliable immunization financing. The SIF Program collaborates with counterparts in government ministries and parliaments, subnational decision-makers and the private sector to develop innovative financing solutions, such as Nepal’s new immunization fund.
“Work on this bill began in 2012. Nepal now joins eight other SIF countries with immunization legislation on their books,” said Mike McQuestion, Ph.D., M.P.H., SIF program director. “Greater political commitment, expressed in part through laws, is building the momentum needed for countries to fully finance their immunization programs and achieve the goals set forth in the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP).”
The GVAP calls on countries to increase financing of their immunization programs and to extend the full benefits of immunization to every man, woman and child by 2020. However, rising costs, due mainly to the addition of new life-saving vaccines such as those against rotavirus, pneumococcal and human papillomavirus diseases pose serious challenges to lower income countries like Nepal. While the actual cost of fully immunizing a child in a typical lower income country is around US$60, 56 lower income country governments reported spending about US$7 per infant on average in 2014.
“Collective efforts have paid off. Evidence-based advocacy works in Nepal,” said Devendra Gnawali, Ph.D., M.Sc., a Kathmandu-based SIF senior program officer who works on SIF projects in Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. “Now that Nepal has an immunization law, its effective implementation will help secure adequate funding from the government. Domestic private partners' contribution through the national immunization fund is a major innovation. The law will make the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) team and partners more responsible and accountable for fully immunizing children in Nepal and could serve as a model for other countries seeking sustainable immunization for their citizens. I hope Nepal will achieve its goal of country ownership in fully self-financing its national immunization program in the years to come.”
About Sustainable Immunization Financing
The Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Sustainable Immunization Financing (SIF) program enables countries to take long-term financial ownership over their immunization programs. SIF field officers collaborate with public and private counterparts in 22 countries across Africa, Asia and Eurasia who are developing, implementing, or institutionalizing solutions for sustainable immunization financing. SIF countries develop immunization legislation, financing arrangements, and budget advocacy and management practices to sustainably fund routine immunization. SIF facilitates and catalyzes these processes by organizing workshops, peer-to-peer exchanges and informational sessions to bring together national counterparts.
About Sabin Vaccine Institute
Sabin Vaccine Institute is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization of scientists, researchers, and advocates dedicated to reducing needless human suffering caused by vaccine preventable and neglected tropical diseases. Sabin works with governments, leading public and private organizations, and academic institutions to provide solutions for some of the world's most pervasive health challenges. Since its founding in 1993 in honor of the oral polio vaccine developer, Dr. Albert B. Sabin, the Institute has been at the forefront of efforts to control, treat and eliminate these diseases by developing new vaccines, advocating use of existing vaccines and promoting increased access to affordable medical treatments. For more information please visit www.sabin.org.